Angina is a pain or
discomfort felt in your chest, which
is usually caused by coronary heart
Some people feel the pain in their
arm, neck, stomach or jaw.
What does angina feel like?
Angina often feels like a heaviness or
tightness in your chest, and this
may spread to your arms, neck, jaw, back or stomach as
well. Some people describe a feeling of severe
tightness, while others say it’s more of a dull
ache. Some people experience shortness of
If you think your angina has got worse, feels
different than it has before, has become more frequent, or has
changed in any other way, you should speak to your doctor
What should I do if I get chest pain?
If you have not been diagnosed with angina and
experience chest pain, call 999 immediately.
If you have already been
diagnosed with angina, you may experience angina pain or
discomfort that you can manage by taking your glyceryl
trinitrate (GTN) spray or tablets, and resting.
- a crushing pain, heaviness or tightness in your
- a pain in your arm, throat, neck, jaw, back or
- become sweaty, feel light-headed, sick or become short of
Stop what you are doing and sit down and
Take your GTN spray and tablets, according to
your doctor or nurse’s instructions. The pain should ease within a
few minutes – if it doesn’t, take a second
If the pain does not ease within a few minutes after your second
dose, call 999 immediately.
If you’re not allergic to aspirin, chew one
adult tablet (300mg). If you don’t have any aspirin or you are not
sure if you're allergic to aspirin, you should rest until the
- Even if your symptoms don’t match
the above but you suspect you’re having a heart
attack, call 999 immediately.
What causes angina?
Angina is usually caused by coronary
heart disease. When the arteries that supply your heart muscle
with blood and oxygen become narrowed, the blood supply to your
heart muscle is restricted. This can cause the symptoms of
Angina symptoms are often brought on by physical activity, an
emotional upset, cold weather or after a meal. The episodes usually
subside after a few minutes.
Other causes of angina
There are two other causes of angina.
Variant angina – also known as Coronary artery spasm or
This happens when a coronary artery supplying blood and
oxygen to your heart goes into spasm.
Find out more in our
Angina booklet or in our
Coronary artery spasm information sheet
Cardiac syndrome X – also known as microvascular angina
This usually occurs when you're exerting yourself, for
example when you're physically active, or have had an
emotional upset. With cardiac syndrome X, your coronary
arteries will appear normal when they're investigated,
and there will be no evidence of the atheroma (fatty build-up
in your arteries) that usually causes angina.
Find out more in our
Angina booklet or in our Cardiac
syndrome X information sheet
Can I prevent angina?
Unfortunately you can’t reverse coronary
heart disease, which causes angina, but you can
help delay your arteries narrowing. To do
this it's important to:
can also be used to help prevent angina episodes.
How is angina diagnosed and treated?
Your doctor may be able to tell whether you have angina
from the symptoms that you describe.
Alternatively, they may want to carry out a health check or send you for some tests such as an ECG, coronary
angiogram or heart scan.
There is medication available that
may help control your symptoms. Your doctor might also
suggest you take medication to reduce your risk of a heart attack or stroke.
Some people need treatments such as a coronary angioplasty or heart bypass surgery to help treat their
coronary heart disease and angina.
Living a healthy lifestyle can help manage
your symptoms and is also a very important part of your
Everyday life with angina
Many people with angina have a good quality of life and continue
with their normal daily activities. Your doctor or nurse will be
able to advise you on your daily activity and any lifestyle changes
you may need to make.
Living an active lifestyle is also really important to help stop
your coronary heart disease from
Where can I find out more?
Researching chest pain
Your donations are funding BHF Professor Andrew Baker. He leads a team of scientists
aiming to translate discoveries made in the lab into new treatments
for people with angina.