Angina warning signs

Updated February 21, 2017

According to the National Heart Lung and Blood Institute, approximately 7 million Americans suffer with angina. Angina is the discomfort or chest pain that occurs when the heart muscle does not receive enough oxygen. For those who suffer with angina, learning to recognise the warning signs may make the difference of life or death.


Angina is discomfort in the centre of the chest. There may be a feeling of numbness, squeezing or pressure in the chest. It can occur in the shoulders, arms, jaw, neck or upper back. The discomfort or pain is different for each person. Some have mild discomfort, while others have intense pain. Angina is usually a symptom of coronary artery disease.


Stable angina is the most common type. It is when the heart is working harder than usual and causes a pattern of pain that is easy to recognise by the individual. Exercise or other physical exertion can cause an angina attack. Once the patient takes medication, the pain goes away within minutes. Unstable angina does not follow a pattern. It can occur whether there is physical exertion or not. It is not relieved with medication and is a sign that a heart attack may occur. Variant angina is rare. It occurs when the patient is at rest. It is severe pain, which hits usually between midnight and early morning. Medication relieves the pain.


Angina may lead to a possible heart attack. If chest pain does not go away after rest or chest pain is worse after 10 minutes, call 911. Other signs are nausea, dizziness or a light head and shortness of breath. Shortness of breath is the most common sign of a heart condition. It can happen over time or can happen unexpectedly. Sometimes there is shortness of breath and no chest pain.


Other symptoms associated with angina are swelling in the legs, ankles and feet. The swelling is usually associated with shortness of breath. Calf muscle pain may be due to blocked arteries in the legs as well as the heart. High blood pressure and high cholesterol are all warning signs of possible heart disease.


Smart health choices are the first step to preventing angina or controlling angina. Eat well-balanced meals with high fibre, plenty of vegetables, fruit, and eat more fish. Quit smoking and begin exercising, but do not exert the body with physical activity. Maintain a healthy weight. If diabetes is present, manage it with diet and medication. Control blood pressure and cholesterol.

Cite this Article A tool to create a citation to reference this article Cite this Article

About the Author

Pauline Gill is a retired teacher with more than 25 years of experience teaching English to high school students. She holds a bachelor's degree in language arts and a Master of Education degree. Gill is also an award-winning fiction author.