Angina Vs. Heart Attack: What's the Difference?

September 30, 2022
5 min read

When it comes to angina vs. heart attack, many people might confuse them due to similar symptoms. But, in reality, both of these heart conditions are different. Although they have some similarities, we will explain to you how they differ. Carry on reading to know the difference between heart attack and angina.

Angina Vs. Heart Attack: What is it?

First of all, let us discuss what angina and heart attack are. They're both associated with chest pain, but there are differences between the two.When there is insufficient blood flow to your heart, your body sends warning signals, including chest pain. This is known as angina, the feeling that occurs due to a lack of blood flow to the heart.On the other hand, you can refer to a heart attack as the consequence of reduced blood flow to your heart. When the plaque builds up in vessels, it narrows them. Consequently, the heart is deprived of oxygen and nutrients due to a lack of blood flow. It is a medical condition that requires urgent care.Simply put, angina is a symptom, whereas a heart attack is a condition.

Types of Angina

Usually, people suffer from stable angina, which occurs due to activities and exertion. For example, you might experience it if you do something like walking up a hill. It can go away with rest and medication, as it lasts a short time.The other type is unstable angina, which is a medical emergency. It is unpredictable. Unstable angina typically occurs at rest or with less physical effort as the pain increases. Unlike stable angina, unstable angina can last around 20 minutes or longer. In addition, medications and rest don't help reduce the pain. Gradually, it can lead to a lack of oxygen in your heart due to reduced blood flow; a heart attack might occur. Therefore, it requires emergency treatmentThere are other types of angina, too, like variant angina and refractory angina. Medications and lifestyle changes might help with these kinds of angina.

Angina Vs. Heart Attack: Symptoms

When it comes to angina vs. heart attack, chest pain is a common symptom. However, it is not the only one.Symptoms of angina might include:

  • Feeling of burning, squeezing, pressure, and fullness in the chest
  • Pain in arms, neck, shoulder, jaw, and back
  • Dizziness
  • Fatigue
  • Shortness of breath
  • Sweating
  • Nausea

There might be more indications, depending on angina a person experiences.

  • The signs that you have a heart attack include:
  • Experiencing uncomfortable pressure, squeezing, fullness, and/or pain in the center or left side of the chest
  • Chest pain on the left or center
  • Feeling light-headedness or like you might faint
  • Discomfort in the back, neck, or jaw
  • One or both arms and shoulders hurt
  • Shortness of breath

Is Angina a Symptom of Heart Attack?

Physical activities, smoking, and stress are some aspects that can trigger angina. This is because these factors increase the need for blood flow in your heart.Coronary artery disease causes both angina and heart attack. Thus, angina can sometimes signify a heart attack, but not always. Moreover, it can also be a warning sign that you're at risk of a heart attack. Go to the emergency department to know if you're having a heart attack or angina.Unstable angina can be dangerous, and it might be related to a heart attack. Visit your heart doctor if these happen:

  • Unfamiliar or new chest pain
  • Increasing pain
  • Pain that starts even with less physical activity
  • Pain that feels different compared to before
  • Experiencing pain even at rest

What Should I Do?

Angina vs. Heart Attack is a common confusion since they share similar symptoms and causes. But heart attack and unstable angina call for an immediate visit to the cardiologist. Our North West Cardiologist team is always here to help. Dial(281) 807-5253 to contact us today.

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