No, there are four types of angina. They are:

1. Chronic stable angina (Angina Pectoris)

Stable angina is the most common type of angina which occurs only during strenuous physical activity like climbing stairs or jogging or during emotional trauma like stress. In other words, it occurs when the heart has to work harder than normal.

2. Unstable angina

Unstable angina is the type of squeezing and gripping chest pain that occurs suddenly without warning even without physical or emotional strain and is not relieved by rest.

3. Variant angina

This type of angina is not caused by blockage of the arteries due to plaque build-up but by a spasm in a coronary artery. Variant angina might strike at night while you are sleeping or resting.

4. Microvascular angina

This type of angina is the squeezing and clutching chest pain that occurs due to a serious heart condition called as a coronary microvascular disease (MVD). This is caused by a loss in functionality of the tiny microvascular blood vessels that feed your heart.

It is a myth that heart diseases occur in men alone and women don’t get them. In fact, heart disease is the biggest killer of women worldwide and unfortunately often goes undetected and wrongly diagnosed in women because of lack of awareness and the tendency of women to downplay their symptoms.

It is vital to know that angina symptoms are not typical in women, unlike the classical crushing left-hand side chest pain encountered in men.

Many women don’t have chest pain at all during an angina attack. Instead, they have:

  • A pain that travels to the neck, jaw, shoulder and upper back
  • Shortness of breath
  • Sweating
  • Dizziness
  • Tiredness
  • Stomach symptoms like heartburn, nausea or vomiting

These symptoms are often subtle, therefore get neglected or mistaken for a less serious problem like acidity or a panic attack which can prove to be dangerous and at times even fatal.

The usual cause of angina in men are blockages in the blood vessels that supply blood to the heart i.e. the coronary arteries.  Women more frequently develop angina pain due to dysfunction of the very small arteries that branch out from the coronary arteries. This is referred to as microvascular disease (MVD).

Microvascular angina may be difficult to diagnose because the symptoms like nausea and indigestion mimic those of other illnesses.

Stable angina by itself is not life-threatening. But it needs to be immediately investigated and treated as it can increase your risk of a heart attack.

Unstable angina, on the other hand, is a medical emergency because it is a sign that the blood supply to and the function of your heart is compromised, and unless immediately managed it can prove to be fatal.

This depends upon the type of angina. Symptoms of stable angina usually only last for a few minutes and can be improved by resting and/or taking medications as may be prescribed by your doctor or and/or taking such other steps as may be advised by your doctor.

On the other hand, symptoms of unstable angina may worsen with time and is a medical emergency.

But once you have been diagnosed with Angina, then it will never go away or be cured. It can be managed better with lifestyle changes and medication.

Imagine a pipe that supplies water to tap. If dust particles get collected in this pipe, it can reduce the width of the pipe and block the flow of water. This is exactly what happens in the coronary arteries. The coronary arteries or the blood vessels that supply blood to the heart become narrow or get blocked. This can happen due to the clogging with cholesterol and fatty deposits called plaque.

When the blood supply lessens, the heart thirsts for oxygen. This leads to a squeezing or clutching discomfort called angina. This reduced blood flow may be sufficient for your regular activities. However, in times of exertion e.g. if you are exercising; when your heart needs to work harder, the demand for oxygen-rich blood goes up. The blocked artery cannot meet this demand, and this may cause angina.  If the blood supply to a portion of the heart is cut off wholly, it can lead to a heart attack.

Angina pain can be experienced differently by different people.

Some may experience heaviness or pressure, others may describe a tightness, squeezing sensation & for some it can feel similar to indigestion or heartburn.

If you have any discomfort, pain or squeezing sensation in your chest area, you must consult a doctor immediately. Only a doctor can determine if your symptoms are actually heart-related with the help of tests like ECG, stress test and angiograms.

Unfortunately, your weight is not just a burden on your weighing scale, it can add a heavy load to your heart too.

You should consult your physician/doctor to assess whether or not you are overweight and for professional advice on how to reduce excess weight, if any.

Some swaps for heart health.

  • Swap salt with spices and herbs
  • Swap trans-fat rich butter or dalda with monosaturated oils like olive oil
  • Swap red meat with lean meat
  • Swap full cream with low-fat dairy products
  • Swap fries and baked goods with nuts and seeds
  • Swap sugary juices and aerated drinks with coconut water, sugarcane juice, and plain lemon juice
  • Swap desserts with fresh fruits
  • Swap starters with soups while dining out
  • Swap sandwich spreads with mint and coriander chutney
  • Swap sauces and ketchup with healthy dips

Please however consult your physician/doctor before making any swaps in your diet or otherwise taking any decisions regarding your nutrition.

When a person with a healthy heart exercises, his coronary blood vessels respond by supplying his heart with extra fuel in the form of oxygen.

But in angina, the heart vessels are clogged and the blood flow is reduced. The heart is barely able to provide you with oxygen to cope with your daily activities. When the additional burden of exertion is added, it cannot cope and starts experiencing discomfort.

Smoking can set your heart health on fire. It can damage the blood vessels that carry blood to your heart.  It can increase the build-up of plaque which can clog up your arteries and reduce blood flow leading to angina pain.

There is a proven correlation between your mind and body. Stress triggers the release of a hormone called cortisol. Cortisol increases blood pressure and makes your heart work harder. Your heart is unable to keep pace with this extra activity and this can lead to an angina attack. Learn to manage your stress levels with meditation, yoga and mind relaxation techniques to ward off angina.

Certain blood tests are carried out to measure the level of cardiac biomarkers and proteins that are released when muscle cells are damaged, are ordered to help differentiate angina from a heart attack. E.g. troponin & CPK-MB. A troponin test measures the levels of troponin T protein in the blood. These proteins are released when the heart muscle gets damaged. The more damage there is to the heart, the greater the amount of troponin T detected.

Angina is not a disease in itself, but a symptom of heart disease. It is a tightness, pain, or discomfort in the chest that occurs when a particular region of the heart muscle receives less blood oxygen than usual.

It is not a life-threatening condition on its own but is a strong indicator of heart disease. It may be a warning signal of an impending heart attack.

In stable angina, chest pain lasts for a few minutes (2-10 mins).

However, in unstable angina, the pain may worsen and requires emergency medical help. The pain can be strong and long-lasting and may return again and again. It can be a signal that you are about to have a heart attack, so it will be wise to consult a  doctor right away.

Unfortunately, if you have a family history of heart disease, you have an increased risk of developing heart diseases such as coronary heart disease, angina, heart attack, heart failure and stroke.

It is better to take precautions by going for periodic heart health assessments and regular BP and cholesterol check-up. Also make heart-smart choices by healthy lifestyle changes

It can be frightening to be diagnosed with angina but a combination of treatment and lifestyle changes can help you lead a normal life and manage your angina better. 

Some simple steps to lead a better quality of life in spite of angina include –

Regular Exercise

You may be fearful of exercising after being diagnosed with angina. However, an exercise in moderation is necessary to boost your heart muscle health and for overall wellness. Be sure not to overdo it. (Moderate exercise 150 min/week). Usually, aerobic exercise like walking and swimming and yoga poses like Matsyasana and Bhujangasana are also considered beneficial.

Activities like walking your pet and gardening can also be safely undertaken by you.

While exercising, be sure to take regular breaks, keep your medicines handy and discontinue if you feel breathless or uncomfortable.

Eat heart-smart

Choose heart-friendly foods like whole grains, brightly colored fruits and vegetables, fatty fish, lean meat, legumes, low-fat dairy, nuts, and seeds. Limit 4 whites i.e. salt, sugar, maida, and butter.

Manage your weight

Stomach fat is linked to high blood sugar, increased blood pressure, and raised levels of triglycerides, a type of unhealthy fat.

Learn to manage your weight with portion size control, low-fat diet and regular exercise.

Quit smoking

Every time you smoke, your heart rate and blood pressure get elevated, and this can bring on an angina attack. So, quit smoking and try to avoid passive smoke too.

Control stress levels

Your body produces a “stress hormone” called cortisol, which boosts a reaction during times of stress. However, increased cortisol is harmful as it narrows blood vessels that may eventually bring on an angina attack. So be sure to control stress with yoga, mind relaxation techniques and meditation.

Treat angina as a warning signal and consider it to be an opportunity to change the way you are living in order to have a better and heartier future.

Unfortunately, diabetes increases your risk of heart disease, including angina.  Diabetes causes high levels of glucose in your blood. High levels of glucose in your blood can damage the walls of your arteries and make them more likely to develop fatty deposits that can narrow them and restrict the flow of blood. When less blood reaches the heart, you may develop tightness and discomfort in the chest area.

High blood pressure can cause damage to your blood vessels. It also puts a lot of strain on the heart and makes your heart exert more to pump blood. If you already have a build-up of plaque in your blood vessels that slows down blood, this oxygen starvation can lead to angina pain.

Angina is a squeezing, gripping pain in the chest area caused due to a reduction in blood reaching your heart. One of the reasons behind angina can be the narrowing of blood vessels that supply blood to the heart due to the deposition of gunk (debris) along with their walls. Cholesterol is a part of this block called plaque, so having high “bad” cholesterol can increase the narrowing of your blood pipes. This can limit blood flow to the heart, causing angina.

It is tough for a non-medical person to distinguish between angina (chest pain) and indigestion because the symptoms resemble each other so well. Heartburn, nausea, vomiting, giddiness, and discomfort in the chest region can be experienced both in angina and in case of indigestion.

To add to the confusion, both indigestion and angina can occur after consumption of heavy meals. Reflux after a heavy meal can trigger chest pain. A heavy dinner may lead to the diversion of blood from your heart to your stomach. This will make the heart starve of oxygen causing chest pain.

Angina has typical symptoms like radiating pain in back, jaw, arm, dizziness, vomiting. However, it is always better to immediately consult a physician and find the reason behind your chest pain.

The symptoms of both panic attack and angina resemble each other to a great extent. During a panic attack, a hormone called adrenaline is released causing symptoms like shortness of breath, tightness in your chest, dizziness, sweating, stomach symptoms like nausea and fear. These symptoms are experienced during an angina attack too.

Unfortunately, a panic attack has symptoms that closely resemble those of angina, making it hard to tell the difference between the two. It’s always better to be safe rather than sorry when your heart is involved. Hence, consult a doctor without delay.