3 Differences Between Heart Attack & Angina

heart attack
heart attack

It is important to recognize the differences between heart attack and angina episodes.  However, if you are not sure, do not hesitate in seeking medical help immediately.

What are the 3 main differences?

  1. The amount of blood flow/oxygen getting to the heart

A heart attack involves one or more coronary (heart) arteries becoming totally obstructed.

This results in no blood flow and oxygen getting to the heart muscle and results in the death of the heart muscle and permanent damage to it.

With angina, the blood flow is temporarily reduced to the heart muscle.  As a result, the heart receives less blood flow and oxygen.  However, the heart does not die with angina, although it can become weakened over time with repeated angina episodes.

  1. When they occur

With heart attacks, they can occur anytime and it does not have to be when your heart has been doing anything too much.

Angina, on the other hand, usually occurs when the heart is working hard and is under stress due to doing physical activity, being psychologically stressed, being in a very hot or cold environment, or after you have consumed a big meal.

  1. Whether the pain goes away

 In heart attacks, the pain or discomfort will not disappear with rest or medication that you have been prescribed for your angina.

With angina, once you rest or take your prescribed angina medication, the pain or discomfort should go away.  If the pain does not go away after 10 minutes of doing this, then you need to call for an ambulance.

So as you can see, heart attacks and angina episodes are two different things.

If angina is not a heart attack, then is it something to be concerned about?

Even though angina is not a heart attack, you do need to pay attention to it as it is a warning sign that your heart is not working effectively.  Sometimes, angina can lead to a heart attack.

When should you consult your physician for angina?

Of course, if this is the first time that you are experiencing chest pain, and have never before received a diagnosis of angina, then you should seek immediate attention from your local emergency department.

If you have previously been diagnosed with angina, and you notice that it begins to occur more often, come on without the usual triggers (exertion, stress), or lasts longer than usual, then again you should see a physician immediately.

In summary, it is very important to learn the differences between heart attacks and angina.  If, at any time, you are not sure though what you are experiencing, always seek medical help right away!

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