Is Angina a Precursor to a Heart Attack?

Is Angina a Precursor to a Heart Attack?

Understanding the link between angina and a heart attack can save your life. Angina is often a warning sign of blocked arteries, which can set the stage for a heart attack in the future. It’s wise to get a heart health checkup if you experience symptoms of angina. 

At Indus Cardiology, heart specialist Yogesh Paliwal, MD, wants you to know that it’s never too late or too early to take proactive steps to protect your heart health. Heart disease remains the number one cause of death in the United States, and it’s largely preventable. 

So, what is angina and why should you be concerned about it? Keep reading to learn more. 

Angina 101

A heart attack is most commonly associated with crushing chest pain and shortness of breath. Angina on the other hand, while not a heart attack, is a type of chest pain that results from inadequate blood flow to the heart. 

A narrowing or blockage in an artery that supplies blood to the heart (coronary artery disease),  is the most common cause. Fatty deposits that build up on blood vessel walls, causing them to narrow and reduce blood flow, are a common underlying factor in CAD. 

Stable angina

Physical activity, such as climbing stairs is a common trigger for stable angina. This creates an increased need for blood flow to your heart. Emotional stress and eating large meals can also trigger angina.

Angina is considered stable when it responds to rest and/or nitrate medication.

Unstable angina

Unstable angina isn’t relieved with rest or nitrate medication. It happens when blood flow to the heart is significantly decreased. Without intervention, unstable angina can lead to a heart attack. 

Common angina symptoms 

Angina symptoms include a squeezing or burning chest discomfort or the sensation that something heavy is sitting on your chest.

Other symptoms include:

Women often develop abdominal pain as well and describe their chest pain as more of a stabbing sensation.

When to see a heart specialist

You should never ignore chest pain. True angina increases your risk of a future heart attack and requires prompt evaluation. Early diagnosis and treatment protects your heart health and reduces the risk of complications and poor outcomes. 

Because angina symptoms mimic various other conditions, only a comprehensive evaluation by your cardiologist can determine whether your symptoms are related to your heart or caused by conditions such as acid reflux, hiatal hernia, or other non-cardiac health issues.  

It’s also wise to seek immediate evaluation if you’ve been diagnosed with stable angina in the past, yet notice new or worsening symptoms. This may be a warning sign of a looming heart attack.  

If you have chest pain or symptoms of angina, schedule a visit with Dr. Paliwal. We have offices in Pomona, Montclair, and West Covina, California. Call one of our convenient locations or book your appointment online today.  

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