Angina (Chest Pain)
Angina is chest pain or discomfort caused when your heart muscle doesn't get enough oxygen-rich blood. It may feel like pressure or squeezing in your chest. The discomfort also can occur in your shoulders, arms, neck, jaw, abdomen or back. Angina pain may even feel like indigestion. In addition, some people don’t feel any pain but have other symptoms like shortness of breath or fatigue. If these symptoms are due to a lack of oxygen to the heart muscle, it’s called an “anginal equivalent.”
But angina is not a disease. It's a symptom of an underlying heart problem, usually coronary heart disease (CHD), also known as coronary artery disease (CAD). There are many types of angina, including stable, unstable, microvascular, and angina caused by a spasm in the coronary arteries (vasospastic or variant). View an animation of angina.
Angina usually happens because one or more of the coronary arteries is narrowed or blocked, also called ischemia.
Angina can also be a symptom of coronary microvascular disease (MVD). This is heart disease that affects the heart’s smallest coronary arteries and is more likely to affect women than men. Learn more about angina in women.
Depending on the type of angina you have, there are many factors that can trigger angina pain. The symptoms also vary based on the type of angina you have.
Types of Angina
Knowing the types of angina and how they differ is important.
- Stable angina
- Unstable angina
- Microvascular Angina
- Vasospastic or variant angina
Understand Your Risk for Angina
If you’re at risk for heart disease or coronary artery disease, you’re also at risk for angina. The major risk factors for heart disease and coronary artery disease include:
- Unhealthy cholesterol levels
- High blood pressure
- Overweight or obesity
- Metabolic syndrome
- Physical inactivity
- Unhealthy diet
- Older age (The risk increases for men after 45 years of age and for women after 55 years of age.)
- Family history of early heart disease