Is It Angina Or Heart Attack? Know The Difference For Proper Treatment

There is a stark difference between heart attack and angina. Let's know in detail for proper diagnosis and treatment. 

Vani Malik
Written by: Vani MalikPublished at: Jul 29, 2021
Is It Angina Or Heart Attack? Know The Difference For Proper Treatment

Chest pain may cause panic among people as it is one of the main symptoms of a heart attack. While this is true, people can also experience mild chest pain during angina which is a warning sign of heart attack. Though angina does not cause permanent damage to the heart, it is important to take action as it is the indication by the heart that it needs attention.

Heart attack is a severe form of angina. Heart attack occurs due to the blockage in the artery. While the blockage is 70-80%, an individual might experience mild chest pain on exertion known as angina, and when it becomes more than 90%, it can lead to a heart attack. In both conditions, patients may feel pressure in the chest, discomfort in the body or even a feeling of tightness in the chest. Both angina and heart attack occur due to coronary artery disease and the major difference between the two is that an individual might experience chest pain while he is doing any physical activity like  in angina and the person can experience chest pain even while resting in heart attack. It has to be noted that pain during heart attack is more severe compared to angina.

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Also Read: Heart Attack: Signs, Symptoms and Emergency Treatment

Heart Attack

Heart attack occurs when the blood flow to the heart muscles get restricted or blocked all of a sudden. Usually the cholesterol accumulation leads to the buildup of plaque inside the walls of an artery. Over the period, this plaque narrows the artery, reducing the blood flowing through the vessel leading to coronary artery disease. In the initial stage, it can cause angina. However, over time the narrowed artery can get occluded due to clot formation, which will restrict the blood flow suddenly, leading to heart attack.

Symptoms of heart attack

  • Discomfort in the body
  • Pressure or tightness in the chest
  • Burning sensation
  • Fullness
  • Squeezing in chest
  • Shortness of breath
  • Dizziness
  • Cold sweat
  • Indigestion
  • Nausea
  • Numbness in the hands
  • Overwhelming fatigue

signs-symptoms-heart-attack

Angina

Angina is the warning sign given by the heart that something is wrong with it. The chest pain during angina is due to heart muscles not getting enough blood. Heavy physical activity, strong emotions, extreme temperature are the most common causes of angina.  This pain is temporary as an individual gets relieved from pain after taking rest. If the pain remains, it is considered a mild heart attack.

Angina is the initial heads-up given by the heart regarding the underlying problem. Angina chest pain cannot be ignored as it is the first sign which says that your artery is narrowed.

Symptoms of angina are

  • Discomfort in the body
  • Pressure or tightness in the chest
  • Burning sensation
  • Fullness
  • Squeezing in chest
  • Shortness of breath
  • Dizziness
  • Indigestion
  • Nausea
  • Numbness in the hands
  • Overwhelming fatigue

angina-signs-symptoms

Also Read: Angina: Types, Causes, Symptoms, Diagnosis And Treatment

Depending on the severity of chest pain, angina is divided into 2 different categories.

1# Stable angina: This occurs when an individual is working or performing any physical activity. This pain usually subsides when the individual rests.

2# Unstable angina: This occurs when the heart is not working hard. In this case, the chest pain will be intense and continues even if the individual is resting.

Stable angina may not be a medical emergency as it goes away with rest and medications. However, it calls for an emergency when the symptoms last longer. The most important difference between angina and heart attack is the severity and the duration of symptoms.

With inputs from Dr Sunil Kumar, Consultant, Cardiologist, Columbia Asia Hospital Hebbal. (A unit of Manipal Hospitals)

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