Is an Angina a Precursor to a Heart Attack?

Sep 09, 2022
Is an Angina a Precursor to a Heart Attack?
If you’ve ever experienced a twinge in your chest, you might not think much of it. However, it could be due to a condition called angina. Keep reading to learn when angina could be a sign that a heart attack is coming.

Pain in your chest isn’t something you ever want to ignore, even if it’s angina. Although angina doesn’t always signal an immediate heart problem, it can be a signal for what’s to come.

In some cases, angina can signal that a heart attack is just around the corner, especially if you don’t have it treated.

The Heart Clinic of Hammond team is here to help you if you’re dealing with angina or any other heart problem. When you need specialized treatment, Dr. Ghiath Mikdadi and Dr. Farid Zayed provide excellent cardiac care.

What is angina?

Angina is a medical condition caused by decreased blood flow to your heart. When the heart muscle has a deficiency of oxygenated blood, it causes intense pain in your chest. You may also feel pressure or squeezing in your chest or indigestion.

When you have coronary artery disease (CAD), you may end up with angina. CAD is the most common form of heart disease and happens when plaque builds up in your arteries, blocking blood flow to your heart. 

There are several different forms of angina, which include:

Stable angina

Stable angina is the most prevalent form of angina and typically happens with some form of exertion. This form of angina is short-lived, usually lasting only a few minutes.

If you have stable angina, it’s often relieved with rest or medication. 

Unstable angina

Unstable angina is a medical emergency because it’s very unpredictable. This form of angina happens when you’re at rest and lasts much longer than other forms of angina. 

When you have unstable angina, the pain in your chest is severe and isn’t relieved by angina medications or more rest. When blood flow is restricted to your heart for a period of time, you could have a heart attack.

Variant angina

Variant angina, also known as Prinzmetal angina, isn’t brought on by coronary artery disease but is due to a spasm in the arteries of your heart. 

The spasm in your arteries temporarily cuts back the blood flow to your heart, which causes severe chest pain either at rest or overnight. Although not caused by CAD, variant angina is sometimes relieved with medication.

Another type of angina is known as refractory angina. Occurring frequently, this form of the condition continues even after you’ve started medications and changed your lifestyle. 

Symptoms of angina

Angina’s most prevalent symptom is the pain in your chest. The pain may feel sharp or tight and can travel to your jaw or arm. Other common symptoms you may experience with any form of angina include:

  • Chest pressure
  • Squeezing or burning feeling
  • Nausea
  • Fatigue
  • Dizziness
  • Sweating
  • Shortness of breath

All of these signs are also indicative of a heart attack. If you’re unsure that your pain is due to angina or something else, it’s vital to go the nearest emergency room for treatment.

Chest pain due to angina means your heart isn’t getting enough blood supply, which can have dangerous consequences without expert care.

Does angina signal a heart attack?

While not all types of angina signal a heart attack, unstable angina does. Unstable angina is the most dangerous form of the condition and is often a sign that your heart muscle isn’t getting enough oxygen.

Unstable angina — sometimes caused by a blood clot in one or more of the arteries that supplies blood to your heart — cuts off your heart’s oxygen supply, causing a heart attack.

When you have unstable angina, there’s often no pattern to the pain; yet it can happen with mild physical exertion or when resting. Unstable angina also doesn’t typically get better with relaxing or chest pain medications.

If you’re experiencing angina and it doesn’t seem to improve, you’re at high risk for a heart attack. The symptoms of unstable angina can happen anywhere from weeks to days before you have a heart attack.

When you have any type of chest pain, it’s critical to get evaluated immediately. The longer you wait to seek treatment, the higher your risk is for severe complications.

Don’t hesitate to call Heart Clinic of Hammond today at 985-974-9278 if you’re concerned about angina or your heart health. You may also send the team a message on our website to request an appointment at one of our convenient locations in Hammond or Amite, Louisiana.