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All About Angina Versus Heart Attack: Learn the Difference!

angina vs heart attack

Due to the frequently used words “angina” and “heart attack” when discussing cardiac illness, due to the frequent usage of these words in comparable contexts, they may appear to be identical. It is simple to make mistakes because you most likely read or hear about them simultaneously.

Chest discomfort is a symptom of both angina and heart attacks, both of which are brought on by coronary artery disease. The blood veins that provide blood to the heart are impacted by this illness (the coronary arteries). Vascular narrowing caused by plaque buildup limits the amount of blood that can pass through to provide the heart muscle with nutrients or oxygen.

A heart attack and angina is therefore not the same thing, despite the fact that they are comparable in certain aspects. Here in this blog, we will discuss the significant things and dissimilarities to guide you better.

What is the primary difference between angina and a heart attack?

The chest discomfort brought on by insufficient cardiac blood flow is known as angina. Your body sends out alerts when the heart isn’t receiving enough blood, indicating that the organ is in danger of becoming damaged. When your heart is having difficulties, you will suffer from angina, a specific form of discomfort.

On the other hand, heart attacks happen when the constriction is severe or results in a blockage, really harming the heart muscle. In other words, angina is a symptom and a heart attack is a real medical problem. Here is another perspective on the matter: When your heart is not receiving enough blood, you get angina, and a heart attack results from this lack of blood.

Lab Testing

Angina symptoms versus heart attack symptoms

Symptoms of a heart attack:

A heart attack occurs when blood flow to the heart muscle is reduced or interrupted, sometimes due to a blood clot in an artery. Your heart muscle suffers damage or possibly perishes without oxygen. The most common heart attack symptom is chest discomfort.

Possible symptoms of chest discomfort include:

  • Distress
  • Pressure
  • Tension
  • Burning
  • Fullness
  • Squeezing

Less common signs in both males and females include:

  • Pain in the neck, arms, jaw, back, or stomach discomfort
  • Breathing difficulties
  • Dizziness
  • Sweating

Male and female individuals may react differently to heart attack symptoms, especially if they are uncertain. However, if you are experiencing heart attack-like symptoms, you should visit the hospital in case of an emergency.

Symptoms of angina

Unlike symptoms of a heart attack, symptoms of angina serve as your body’s alert that something is wrong with your heart. Angina is a transient chest discomfort or pressure that develops when the arteries that feed your heart with blood and oxygen are constricted or obstructed. That implies that your heart is not receiving the amount of blood it requires to function properly. It is frequently brought on by intense feelings, physical exercise, extremely hot or cold temperatures, or a big meal.

You may experience signs and symptoms of angina like:

  • Chest tightness or discomfort.
  • Pressing into your chest
  • Feelings of heaviness in your middle chest
  • You may have soreness in your jaw, neck, back, shoulder, or back.

How does angina get triggered?

Anything that increases the amount of blood the heart needs might cause angina since the condition is caused by the heart muscle not receiving as much blood as it requires. This can include stress, exercise, and smoking.

Even though the coronary arteries are restricted, your heart may still receive enough blood when you are at rest. However, as soon as you start moving, your heart starts to beat faster. You will have angina if your coronary arteries are unable to provide your working heart with adequate blood. Stress can cause angina and make your heart work harder.

Managing angina symptoms:

You may even be able to treat your angina symptoms as compared to heart attack symptoms at home in some circumstances. There are certain individuals who experience angina that is quite predictable and stable over time. We refer to this as “stable angina. That is why knowing when home treatment for angina is an available option is crucial. You can attempt treating angina at home if your cardiologist feels it’s a good idea and you have been diagnosed with coronary artery disease. However, this is only true if your symptoms stay the same.

You can regularly take the following medicines on your doctor’s prescription to help avoid angina:

  • Long-acting nitrates like isosorbide can stop angina attacks. They help your heart work less by acting similarly to nitroglycerin.
  • Angina can also be avoided by using beta-blockers such as metoprolol, labetalol, carvedilol, or nebivolol. These drugs lessen the effort your heart has to make, which decreases the quantity of blood it requires.
  • Calcium channel blockers, such as nifedipine, diltiazem, and verapamil, function similarly to beta-blockers in lowering the heart’s workload.

When you are absolutely not sure if your angina is becoming a heart attack:

Keep in mind that coronary artery disease, which also causes heart attacks, can induce angina, a symptom. Angina does not necessarily indicate that you are experiencing a heart attack. That could indicate the risk of having a heart attack. If any doubt persists, visit an emergency room straight away to be seen by a doctor.

When should you go to the emergency room if you have angina?

You should never overlook angina if it is new, developing, or becoming worse. We refer to this as an unstable angina. Because it can indicate that your coronary artery disease is worsening or that you are suffering a heart attack, it is far more serious.

Here are some signs that you may be having a heart attack as a result of an angina attack, or that you are more likely to have one:

  • Recent chest aches
  • Increasing pain
  • Less than usual, physical activity-related pain.
  • Pain that is different from the previous pain when it is at rest.
  • Visit an emergency room straight away if you experience any of these signs.
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Bottom line:

Angina is a red flag. It simply serves as a warning that an issue exists. Angina and heart attack are related since it continuously alarms you that not enough blood is getting to your heart muscles. Also, your arteries are narrowing, which might cause a clog, which could potentially lead to a heart attack. Your doctor may advise medicines, balloon catheterization, stents, or bypass surgery to widen your arteries and ensure that your heart receives improved blood flow.

Family Medicine Austin

Written by Jeannette

I am Jeannette, the medical writing specialist here at Family Medicine Austin. I have over five years of experience working with a range of medical and healthcare across the U.S.