If you’ve ever experienced tightness in your chest that feels like squeezing, burning, or suffocating, it could be angina.
Causes and Risk Factors of Angina
Though the pain often goes away with rest, an angina episode is usually the symptom of a more serious underlying heart condition, such as coronary heart disease or coronary microvascular disease (MVD).
Angina can also be caused by the narrowing of the aortic valve in the heart, which is a condition called aortic stenosis.
- High blood pressure
- High cholesterol
- Older age
- Family history of heart disease
- Lack of physical activity
Duration of Angina
Complications of Angina
Angina can make some day-to-day activities, such as walking, difficult or uncomfortable.
The most dangerous complication of angina is a heart attack. Common warning signs of a heart attack include:
- Pain in the center of the chest that can feel like pressure, fullness, or squeezing that lasts more than a few minutes
- Pain moving from the chest to shoulders, arms, back, or jaw
- Shortness of breath
- Nausea and vomiting
- Feeling faint
Unstable angina may also lead to:
- Arrhythmias This includes heartbeats that are too fast, too slow, or irregular.
- Cardiomyopathy In this rare condition, the heart muscle becomes enlarged, thick, or rigid. This can lead to a weakening of the heart muscle, making it more difficult to pump blood to the rest of the body.
- Sudden Cardiac Arrest, This is a very serious condition in which the heart suddenly and unexpectedly stops beating, causing blood to stop flowing to the brain and other organs.
Black Americans and Angina
As with other heart conditions, Black Americans are disproportionately affected by angina.
Resources We Love
Favorite Orgs for Essential Info About Angina
American Heart Association (AHA)
The AHA is the nation’s oldest and largest nonprofit organization dedicated to fighting heart disease and improving the lives of patients with heart issues. The AHA funds life-saving research, advocates for people affected by all heart-related problems, and provides education for people with heart issues, including angina.
American College of Cardiology (ACC)
The ACC is a nonprofit medical association made up of cardiovascular specialists. The ACC partners with the AHA to develop clinical practice guidelines for cardiologists. The ACC also holds annual meetings that focus on the latest research and innovation around heart health.
Favorite Online Support Networks
Women experience angina differently than men. This organization helps women who are dealing with heart-related health issues like angina connect with one another. The website offers an interactive map of the United States that you can scroll over to see if there are local support networks in your community. WomenHeart also offers one-on-one support by text, phone, or email, virtual live meetings, and an online community.
AHA’s support network offers the chance to connect with others on a number of heart-related topics, including general heart health, caregiving, and rehab and recovery. Share your story and engage with others who have shared theirs.
Favorite Apps for Angina
My Therapy generates reminders to take your angina medication and has a built-in health diary to help you monitor symptoms, triggers, and medication side effects. You can also record your blood pressure and cholesterol readings and set daily health goals. My Therapy is free on Android and iOS.
This easy-to-use app allows patients to log their angina symptoms and fill in conditions associated with their onset (like if it occurred during exertion or at rest) and whether or not medication was needed to alleviate pain. The app then produces weekly, monthly, or yearly reports tracking your angina attacks over time, as well as medication consumption, that you can share with your doctor.
Favorite Resource for a Heart-Healthy Diet
The Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics offers advice and actionable cooking tips on how to make changes to your diet to make it more heart-healthy.
Favorite Resource for Becoming an Advocate
Go Red for Women
The AHA’s signature women’s initiative is designed to increase awareness around women’s heart health. Participate in the annual National Wear Red Day every February and start conversations about women’s heart health with the people you love in your life.
Additional reporting by Nicol Natale.
Editorial Sources and Fact-Checking
- Angina. National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute.
- Angina Symptoms and Causes. Mayo Clinic. June 12, 2020.
- Microvascular Angina. American Heart Association. July 31, 2015.
- Angina in Women Can Be Different Than in Men. American Heart Association. July 31, 2015.
- Angina Pectoris (Stable Angina). American Heart Association. July 31, 2015.
- Heart-Health Screenings. American Heart Association. March 22, 2019.
- Prinzmetal’s Variant Angina. National Center for Advancing Translational Sciences. January 8, 2018.
- Cardiac Medications. American Heart Association. January 15, 2020.
- Cardiac Procedures and Surgeries. American Heart Association. October 5, 2020.
- American Heart Association Recommendation for Physical Activity in Adults and Kids. American Heart Association. April 18, 2018.
- Cardiovascular Disease: Prevention and Reversal. Cleveland Clinic. December 20, 2018.
- Diabetes, Heart Disease, and Stroke. National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases. February 2017.
- Diabetes Mellitus: Screening and Diagnosis. American Family Physician. January 15, 2016.
- Heart Disease and Stroke Statistics—2020 Update: A Report From the American Heart Association. Circulation. January 29, 2020.
- Prevalence of Angina in Women Versus Men. Circulation. March 17, 2008.
- National Trends in the Prevalence and Medical History of Angina: 1988 to 2012. Circulation: Cardiovascular Quality and Outcomes. May 1, 2015.
- African American Health. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. July 3, 2017.
- Heartburn or Heart Attack? American Heart Association. April 26, 2018.