Angina is pain or discomfort that happens when your heart can't get enough blood and oxygen.
Angina is caused by coronary heart disease.
Over time a fatty material called plaque builds up in your coronary arteries, making them become narrow. This reduces the blood flow to your heart, and sometimes it may not get as much blood as it needs.
Stable angina is chest pain that can occur during physical activity or extreme emotion.
Unstable angina is chest pain that occurs suddenly and becomes worse over time. It happens seemingly without cause. You may be resting or even asleep.
If you have angina pain that lasts for more than 10 minutes call Triple Zero (000).
Prinzmetal angina (coronary artery spasm) is a temporary discomfort or pain caused by a spasm (constriction) in one or more of your coronary arteries, which can block the blood supply to your heart muscle. Spasms can range from very minor to severe, and sometimes may completely block the blood supply to your heart. Coronary artery spasm fact sheet (PDF).
Angina is not a heart attack, but it is an indicator that you are at high risk of having a heart attack.
If you have angina your risk of having a heart attack increases.
Angina causes pain or discomfort that usually feels tight, gripping or squeezing. It can vary from mild to severe.
People feel angina in many different ways:
People can have symptoms at different times. Some get them early in the morning, or when resting or even sleeping. Some get angina in cold weather, after a heavy meal or after physical activity.
If you think you may have angina, see your doctor.
Your doctor may use one or more of these tests to check if you have angina:
Treatments can help with your angina symptoms and also help manage the heart disease that causes them.
Your doctor may prescribe medicines like nitrates to help relieve your angina episodes. Nitrates relax and widen blood vessels, letting more blood flow to the heart. The most common short-acting nitrate medicine is glyceryl trinitrate (GTN). Your doctor may prescribe other medicines too.
You may need to make some changes to help stop your heart disease getting worse. Read more about looking after yourself when you have heart disease.
If lifestyle changes and medicines don't help you to manage angina, you may need a medical procedure to treat the underlying heart disease.
Learn more about heart attack recovery, including information on what happened to your heart, heart attack treatment and how you can recover sooner.
Call 1300 36 27 87 and talk to one of our qualified health professionals.
About our Health Information Service