Angina is one among the many concerning ailments that perplex both patients and health experts. People suffering from angina often mistake it to be a heart attack, ordinary chest pain or pain from indigestion. Let us hence address the top queries related to angina here.

What is angina?

Angina is a medical condition associated with left side chest pain usually felt as squeezing, tightness, heaviness or fullness. It arises from coronary artery disease, whereby excess fatty deposits known as plaques accumulate on the inner walls of the coronary arteries.

These narrow the arteries resulting in restricted blood flow to the heart. This deprivation of minimum oxygen causes a left side chest pain clinically known as angina. High blood pressure, high cholesterol level, mental stress, tobacco addiction, sedentary lifestyle, etc. are some of the prime causes of angina.

What are the common FAQs on angina?

People suffering from or concerned about angina frequently ask the following questions.

Q1. How many types of angina are there?

A1: There are mainly four types of angina known till date:

Stable Angina:

It is the most common type of angina that is triggered by physical exertion like running or climbing stairs. The rapid heartbeat increases the oxygen demand, but the narrowed arteries restrict adequate blood flow to the heart causing left side chest pain. Besides physical exertion, stable angina can also occur due to emotional stress, cold temperature, etc. Stable angina lasts for less than 5mins and cured by adequate rest or taking prescribed medications (if required).

Unstable Angina:

Unstable angina occurs when the fatty deposits (plaques) rupture forming blood clots. This further narrows the arteries creating a sudden drop in the blood supply. As a result, the heart gets deprived of minimum oxygen, causing severe chest pain and in worst conditions, a heart attack. Unstable angina usually doesn’t respond to medications and needs medical treatments to get cured. It is more severe than stable angina and lasts for more than 30mins.

Variant Angina:

Also known as Prinzmetal’s Angina, caused by temporary spasms in the coronary arteries mainly triggered by smoking tobacco or substance abuse. It may or may not respond to medications and is usually more severe than stable angina.

Microvascular Angina:

Microvascular angina is a serious heart condition whereby the tiny microvascular blood vessels that feed our heart lose functionality. It feels like squeezing or clutching in the chest area.

Q2. How different are angina causes in men & women?

A2: In men, arterial blockages (plaques) are the main cause of angina, while in women, the microvascular disease is the main cause.

Q3. How do I know if I have angina?

A3: If you feel tightness, heaviness or fullness in the chest area, you’re probably experiencing angina. Sometimes it can also feel like indigestion or heartburn. Whenever you feel pain, discomfort or squeezing in the chest area, consult a doctor immediately. Also, diagnostic procedures like ECG, angiograms, stress test, etc. can help you in identifying angina.

Q4. Can angina be inherited?

A4: If your family has a track record of heart diseases, then yes, there’s a high chance you’ll develop angina, strokes, coronary artery disease, etc. But precautions always help. Keep your blood pressure and cholesterol levels under check and adopt a healthy lifestyle.

Q5. How do I differentiate between angina and heartburn?

A5: Although it’s difficult to identify, one can tell the difference by the nature of the pain. Angina feels more like a radiating pain that permeates your back, jaw, arms, shoulders, neck, etc. and causes dizziness. Indigestion or acid reflux, however, does not exhibit these.

Note that angina is not a disease in itself, but a symptom indicating deteriorating cardiac health. People experiencing angina symptoms should immediately consult a doctor and strictly adhere to the prescribed treatments under all circumstances.