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Is Angina a Precursor to a Heart Attack?

May 05, 2023
Is Angina a Precursor to a Heart Attack?
Chest pain can be due to a variety of conditions, including heartburn. But chest pain that’s related to your cardiovascular system is called angina. If you have angina, you already have cardiovascular disease and are at risk for a heart attack.

Cardiovascular disease is the No. 1 cause of mortality in the United States, accounting for about one out of every five deaths. Every 40 seconds, somebody in the US has a heart attack.

Although one in five heart attacks are “silent,” having no symptoms, most heart attacks are preceded by noticeable signs. One of the most common symptoms of a heart attack is angina.

At Advanced Medical Care in Brooklyn and Queens, New York, our experienced cardiologists conduct tests to determine the source of your chest pain. If we diagnose you with angina, we help you make lifestyle changes that help keep your heart safe. We may also prescribe medications.

Is angina a precursor to a heart attack? In many cases, it is. Here’s what to know if you have angina. 

Blood flow to your heart is reduced

When you have an angina attack, not enough blood is flowing to your heart. Without blood — and the oxygen it carries — your heart can’t function optimally. It may start to beat very rapidly in an attempt to receive more blood, creating pain and pressure in your chest.

Your angina is caused by coronary artery disease. Your arteries may have become narrowed due to accumulations of plaque.

Even though both angina and heart attacks arise from the same conditions — coronary artery disease and reduced blood flow to the heart — angina doesn’t damage your heart because the reduced blood flow is limited. A heart attack, however, does permanently damage your heart.

Angina often precedes a heart attack

If you’ve had angina attacks before, you might be tempted to dismiss them. However, an angina attack that’s prolonged and doesn’t improve with either rest or nitroglycerin could be a heart attack. 

Be sure to take the medication your doctor has prescribed to control your angina. We also help you make lifestyle changes that improve your cardiovascular health and thereby reduce your risk for angina and heart attack.

Pay attention to symptoms

If you have chest pain, be sure to consult your doctor as soon as possible. Symptoms of angina include:

  • Chest pain
  • Pain in your neck, shoulder, jaw, arms, or back
  • Burning sensation in your chest
  • Fullness or pressure in your chest
  • Feeling as though your heart is being squeezed
  • Fatigue
  • Nausea
  • Dizziness
  • Shortness of breath
  • Sweating

Women may have slightly different symptoms, including:

  • Discomfort in teeth
  • Stabbing chest pain
  • Stomach pain

If any of these symptoms last for more than a few minutes, have someone take you to the emergency room. The symptoms of angina and the symptoms of a heart attack are virtually identical.

Prevent or reverse angina

Adopting a heart-healthy lifestyle can help you reduce angina attacks or even reverse the condition altogether. We advise you to:

  • Stop smoking
  • Avoid secondhand smoke
  • Adopt a healthier diet, such as the Mediterranean or DASH diet
  • Attain and maintain a stable, healthy weight
  • Manage stress with yoga or meditation
  • Exercise for at least 2.5 hours per week

Also be sure to take any medications that your cardiologist prescribed you. Keep a symptom log so you can identify triggers to your angina episodes.

Don’t guess: Call your doctor

If your angina persists for more than a few minutes, doesn’t improve with rest, or gets worse, get to the emergency room. If you’re concerned about your condition or have side effects from your medications, contact your cardiologist; never stop taking your angina drugs without your doctor’s OK.

Do you have angina? Experience patient-centered care and learn how to keep your heart healthy by contacting Advanced Medical Care at the office near you by phone or online today.

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At Advanced Medical Care, care is not just a part of our name — it is in our hearts. Our providers strive to put our patients first and find solutions to meet their needs on every level. If you’re ready to start improving your health, we encourage you to schedule an appointment at our office in Queens or Brooklyn.