(Unstable Angina; Stable Angina; Angina Pectoris; Cardiac Angina; Variant Angina)


Angina is pain or discomfort in the chest. It often has a squeezing or pressure-like feel. This discomfort can also be felt in the shoulders, arms, neck, jaws, or back. Anginal pain usually lasts for no more than 2-10 minutes.
Types of angina include:
Typical Angina Pain Areas
Women are more likely to experience pain outside of these areas.
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Angina is usually a sign of coronary artery disease (CAD). It occurs when the blood vessels leading to your heart are narrowed or blocked. The blockage decreases the blood and oxygen flow to your heart. When your heart is deprived of oxygen, you will feel chest pain and other symptoms.
Coronary Artery Disease
Coronary Artery plaque
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Stable or Unstable Angina

Angina occurs when your heart's need for blood and oxygen is increased by:
  • Exercise or exertion
  • Cold weather
  • A large meal
  • Emotional stress
Stable angina becomes unstable when symptoms:
  • Occur more often
  • Last longer
  • Are triggered more easily

Variant or Prinzmetal's Angina

This type of angina is usually caused by a spasm of a heart vessel. It may be a sign that you have one of the following conditions:
This type of angina is usually caused by a spasm of a heart vessel. It may be a sign that you have one of the following conditions:

Risk Factors

CAD is more common in older men.
Other factors that may increase your risk of CAD include:


Symptoms may include:
The likelihood of a heart attack is increased when chest discomfort is severe, lasts more than 15 minutes, and is accompanied by other symptoms, such as:


Tests will be done right away to see if you are having an episode of angina or a heart attack. If you have a stable pattern of angina, other tests may be done to determine the extent of your disease. The test results will help to create a treatment plan.
You will be asked about your symptoms and medical history. A physical exam will be done.
Your bodily fluids may be tested. This can be done with blood tests.
Images may be taken of your heart. This can be done with an .
Your heart activity may be tested. This can be done with:


Treatments for angina include:


  • Nitroglycerin—Usually given during an attack of angina as a tablet that dissolves under the tongue or as a spray.
    • Longer-lasting types may be used to prevent angina before an activity—May be given as pills, or applied as patches or ointments.
  • Blood thinners—A small, daily dose of aspirin has been shown to decrease the risk of heart attack.
    • Talk to your doctor before taking aspirin daily.
    • Some may benefit from the addition of blood thinners. There is an increased risk of bleeding with certain medications.
  • Beta-blockers and calcium-channel blockers—May reduce the occurrence of angina
  • Cholesterol-lowering medications—May prevent the progression of CAD; may even improve existing CAD
  • Angiotensin-converting enzyme (ACE) inhibitors and angiotensin receptor blockers (ARBs)—Lower blood pressure and decrease the workload on your heart
  • Ranolazine—To treat chronic angina


Patients with severe angina or unstable, progressing angina may benefit from:


If you already have angina, you can prevent an onset by being aware of what starts it.
If you don't have angina, preventing the development of CAD may reduce your chance of getting the condition.
Steps to prevent CAD include managing risk factors:


Family Doctor—American Academy of Family Physicians

National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute


Canadian Cardiovascular Society

College of Family Physicians of Canada


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Lopez-Sendon J, Swedberg K, et al. Expert consensus document on angiotensin converting enzyme inhibitors in cardiovascular disease. The Task Force on ACE-inhibitors of the European Society of Cardiology. Eur Heart J. 2004;25:1454.

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What is angina? National Heart Lung and Blood Institute website. Available at: Updated June 1, 2011. Accessed August 19, 2014.

7/14/2006 DynaMed's Systematic Literature Surveillance. Available at: Andreotti F, Testa L, et al. Aspirin plus warfarin compared to aspirin alone after acute coronary syndromes: an updated and comprehensive meta-analysis of 25,307 patients. Eur Heart J. 2006;27:519-26.

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