Angina is a type of pain that occurs when not enough blood flows to the heart muscle. Angina may feel like pressure in the chest, jaw or arm. It frequently may occur with exercise or stress.
Some people with angina also report feeling lightheaded, overly tired, short of breath or nauseated. As the heart pumps harder to keep up with what you are doing, it needs more oxygen-rich blood. If this demand is not met, you may feel pain or discomfort in your chest.
If you have what is called stable angina, this pain or tightness is often triggered by a consistent high level of activity, such as during stressful times or walking upstairs after an emotional discussion. In fact, you usually know when it might happen, perhaps during a specific exercise. Cold weather or eating large meals—both of which can make the heart work harder—can result in chest pain if you have heart disease.
In contrast, if you have unstable angina, your chest pain suddenly worsens, either being more severe or occurring with less exertion or at rest.
The good news is that the symptoms of stable angina are usually short-lived and generally stop with rest or medicine.
Because chest pain can be a sign of a heart attack, it is always best to tell your doctor about it and any other concerning symptoms. Keep in mind that there are other reasons why you might have chest pain, like eating too quickly, acid reflux, muscle spasms or breathing issues.
The best way to prevent angina is to adopt heart-healthy habits. You should also keep track of when your chest pain occurs, where you feel it, for how long and what seems to make it better or worse. Use this condition center to learn more about angina.
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