Written by Dr Claudia Pastides, 20th June 2019
Angina is a tight uncomfortable feeling in the chest that is brought on by the muscle of the heart not receiving enough blood. The pain can also sometimes be felt in the neck, jaw, shoulders and arms.
Angina often happens when a person with coronary artery disease (narrowing of the vessels supplying blood to the heart, usually due to fatty deposits) exerts him or her self. This can be either due to exercise or emotional stress. The pain then goes away within about 10 minutes if the person rests.
Angina can also happen at rest in some people. This kind of angina is labelled “unstable angina” and it requires specialist care.
- Increasing age (the older we become the higher our risk of heart disease and angina)
- Being male (men are more likely to have heart disease than females)
- Family history
- Ethnicity (people from South Asia and Sub-saharan Africa are more likely to have heart disease than Europeans, who are in turn more likely than South Americans and people of Chinese origin)
- Unhealthy lifestyle (including smoking, alcohol excess, being overweight, eating an unhealthy unbalanced diet)
- High cholesterol and fat levels in the bloodstream (including inherited conditions where fat and cholesterol levels are high)
- High blood pressure
- Chronic kidney disease
- Atrial fibrillation
- Rheumatoid arthritis
- Mental health disease (such as schizophrenia, PTSD)
Tight chest pain, sometimes radiating to the jaw, shoulders, neck and arms.
- Modifying any lifestyle related risk factors in order to prevent the problem from getting worse (e.g. stopping smoking, losing weight, changing diet)
- Medication to help relieve the chest pain (sublingual glyceryl trinitrate, GTN spray)
- Medication to help prevent worsening heart disease
- Surgery (such as a coronary artery bypass graft, CABG, or coronary angioplasty)
When to speak to a doctor
Concerns around angina can often be initially discussed via a digital consultation. If the GP decides you need examination and a face to face appointment, they will discuss what steps you can take next. To speak to one of our Babylon GPs, download the app and create an account today.
It is important to call 999 if you experience the following symptoms of a heart attack:
- Sudden onset heavy/crushing or tight chest pain (that can also radiate to your arm, jaw, neck, back or stomach)
- Feel very unwell, sick or lightheaded
- Overwhelming feeling of anxiety
Angina is best prevented by following a healthy lifestyle that reduces your risk of heart disease.
British Heart Foundation - https://www.bhf.org.uk/informationsupport/conditions/angina
Please note that this material is for general information only and should never be used as a substitute for personalised medical advice provided during a consultation with a doctor.
The information provided is for educational purposes only and is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Seek the advice of a doctor with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition. Never delay seeking or disregard professional medical advice because of something you have read here.