How to Recognize Signs of Angina

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Angina is not a disease--it is a symptom. If you have angina, your heart isn't getting enough oxygen-rich blood. Usually a symptom of coronary artery disease, angina can be classified as stable, unstable, or variant. Each type of angina has different symptoms that need different treatment. The signs that you experience can help you find out if you have angina and what kind you have.

Describe the discomfort you feel and the area in which you feel it. If the pain is hard to describe or you can't tell exactly where it's coming from, it's probably angina.

Notice pain in the chest, upper central abdomen, back, neck, arms, jaws, or shoulders that feels like pressure, discomfort, heaviness, tightness or burning. This could be angina.

Time the pain. If it usually lasts less than five minutes, has a regular pattern and happens when you exert yourself physically, it's probably the most common kind of angina, stable angina. You can rest or take medicine to relieve the symptoms of stable angina.

Recognize chest pain that spreads or feels like gas or indigestion. These are also symptoms of stable angina. Though it isn't a heart attack, it can make one more likely in the future.

Feeling pain while resting that comes as a surprise and can last as long as thirty minutes can mean you have unstable angina. If your symptoms are more severe, get worse, have no pattern, and can't be relieved by rest or medication you should go to the emergency room immediately. Unstable angina can mean a heart attack will happen soon.

Notice severe pain that happens while you're resting, usually between midnight and early in the morning. This could be variant angina, which is relieved by medication.

Recognize vomiting, nausea, sweating, weakness, and shortness of breath as possible signs of angina.

Tips & Warnings

  • Talk to your doctor about any signs of angina you have.
  • Taking an aspirin every day can relieve angina; however, don't use aspirin as a substitute for medical treatment.
  • Remember that angina is a symptom, a sign that something else is wrong.
  • Don't ignore signs of angina.

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