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What is Angina?

Angina—also sometimes called angina pectoris—is a symptom of an underlying heart condition. It means that the heart is not getting enough blood and as a result, not enough oxygen. This decrease of oxygen being delivered to the muscle of the heart happens if one or more coronary arteries are narrowed or blocked, a condition called atherosclerosis.

This type of blockage may result in chest pain. And while angina does not usually damage the heart, and the pain might only last a few minutes, it is a warning sign that you should not ignore. Your body is telling you that your risk for a heart attack or cardiac arrest is increased. Very simply, angina is your heart's way of getting your attention.

An angina attack is not the same as a heart attack, although many of the symptoms are the same. An angina attack may be provoked by extremes in emotion (being very angry or upset), eating a large meal or eating it very quickly, doing more exercise than usual (overexerting yourself), being exposed to extremes in temperature (too hot or too cold), or smoking. If the angina is a result of physical activity, stopping the activity generally stops the pain. But no matter what the cause of the chest pain or discomfort, it is important that you get medical attention as soon as possible.