Is it angina or a heart attack? Angina symptoms like chest tightness or discomfort are very similar to warning signs of a heart attack. Find out why the symptoms are so similar and learn what to do when you experience angina.
Angina happens when your heart isn't getting enough blood, usually because of narrowed coronary arteries. Your heart may try to improve its blood supply by beating harder and faster. This causes symptoms of angina and is a sign that your heart needs to rest.
The key difference between angina and a is that angina is the result of narrowed (rather than blocked) coronary arteries. This is why, unlike a heart attack, angina does not cause permanent heart damage.
Some people experience episodes of angina before having a heart attack and may continue to experience it afterwards. Other people never experience angina before or after a heart attack.
Symptoms of angina
Angina symptoms differ from person to person, but can include:
- Discomfort, heaviness or tightness of the chest which may spread to the back, shoulders, neck or jaw. Other people describe it as a dull ache
- Discomfort in the arm, neck or jaw with no chest discomfort
- The discomfort can range from mild or dull to severe.
If you haven't been diagnosed with angina but you're experiencing any of the above symptoms, you may be having a heart attack. Stop what you are doing and call 111 now.
If you have been diagnosed with angina, when you experience angina or heart attack symptoms you should follow your angina action plan.
Angina action plan
Chest pain, discomfort or tightness can be a symptom of both angina and a heart attack.
If it is angina, it should ease after a few minutes of resting or taking medication prescribed by your doctor such as GTN (glyceryl trinitrate). If you are experiencing a heart attack, the symptoms are unlikely to ease after a few minutes of resting or taking medication.
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