Angina is a symptom of heart disease. Angina happens when there is not enough blood flow to the heart muscle. This is often a result of narrowed blood vessels, usually caused by hardening of the arteries (atherosclerosis).

Most people feel angina symptoms in their chest. The most common symptom is chest pain or pressure, or a strange feeling in the chest. But you might feel symptoms in other parts of your body. Some people feel pain, pressure, or a strange feeling in the back, neck, jaw, or upper belly, or in one or both shoulders or arms.

Other symptoms of angina include shortness of breath, nausea or vomiting, lightheadedness or sudden weakness, or a fast or irregular heartbeat.

Angina can be stable or unstable. Stable angina happens at fairly predictable times, usually with activity or exertion. It also may occur during exposure to cold or times of emotional stress. Stable angina can be relieved by rest or nitroglycerin. Unstable angina is a change in your usual pattern of stable angina. Unstable angina may mean that you are having a heart attack.

If you have angina, pay attention to your symptoms, know what is typical for you, learn how to control it, and understand when you need to get treatment.

Current as of: February 20, 2015

Author: Healthwise Staff

Medical Review: Rakesh K. Pai, MD, FACC - Cardiology, Electrophysiology & E. Gregory Thompson, MD - Internal Medicine & Stephen Fort, MD, MRCP, FRCPC - Interventional Cardiology