Angina vs. Heart Attack: What’s The Difference?

Most people associate chest pain with heart attack, but not all chest pains are the same. Perhaps it could be heartburn or a side effect of anxiety. However, in most cases, a tingling sensation in the left side of your chest is due to two main reasons: Angina vs Heart Attack.

Since the two diseases share similar symptoms, it’s easy to confuse one for the other. For instance, if your entire body starts to hurt, and there’s an odd, tightening pressure in your chest, it could be due to a damaged coronary artery. But, despite being hard to distinguish, angina and heart attack are very different. In this blog, we’ll outline the biggest distinctions and similarities between the two.

What is Angina?

The best way to describe angina is that it functions as your body’s way of warning you. Angina is a type of chest pain you feel when your heart isn’t getting the right amount of blood and oxygen pumped to it. This disruptive blood flow is what rings the alarm bells within your body, signifying there could be trouble brewing. Moreover, due to narrow arteries, your body might not function properly.


People who suffer from Angina have pain and discomfort in the chest area. The discomfort or pain in the chest could feel like burning, fullness, pressure, and squeezing. Arms, the neck, the jaw, the shoulder, or the back may all experience pain. Other angina symptoms include:

  • Dizziness
  • Fatigue
  • Nausea
  • Shortness of breath
  • Sweating

Angina can range in intensity, duration, and type. Unstable Angina, a more deadly form of Angina, or a heart attack may be indicated by new or different symptoms.


Your heart’s reduced blood flow causes Angina. Your coronary arteries may develop several issues that hinder your heart from getting adequate blood. These consist of the following:

Coronary artery disease (CAD): The most typical cause of Angina is this. When plaque accumulates in your coronary arteries, which carry blood to your heart, it causes heart disease.

Coronary microvascular disease: Small blood veins that branch off of your coronary arteries suffer damage to their walls. These blood vessels require specialized testing not offered at all medical facilities because they cannot be spotted on standard CAD examinations.

Coronary artery spasm: Your coronary arteries stiffen and then open up repeatedly. Your heart’s blood supply is momentarily restricted by these spasms. Even without coronary artery disease, you can experience coronary spasms. Regular CAD testing may not be able to diagnose this, and it may be necessary to conduct specialized testing that not all hospitals offer.

Types of Angina:

Stable Angina – The most typical type of Angina is stable Angina, which is usually triggered by exertion and normally subsides with rest or medicine. It may cause pain while you’re walking uphill or in chilly weather. The chest pain lasts for five minutes or less.

Unstable Angina – Unstable Angina is unpredictable and occurs while having rest or when the stable angina discomfort is getting worse. It requires less exertion and usually lasts for at least 20 minutes. 

Variant angina – Prinzmetal Angina, another name for variant angina, is brought on by a spasm in the arteries of the heart. It momentarily lowers blood flow and causes severe chest discomfort. 

Refractory Angina – This is when people suffer from frequent chest pains, despite a mix of drugs and lifestyle modifications.

What is a Heart Attack?

You’ve probably seen many reenactments of a heart attack, with actors on the big screen dramatically clutching their chests and falling onto the ground. However, that’s not what a heart attack looks like. In fact, in some cases, people don’t even realize they’re having a heart attack since the symptoms are so subtle.

Nonetheless, a heart attack occurs when the blood flowing to your heart suddenly gets cut off or restricted. This typically happens due to a blockage in the arteries, such as a blood clot. But unlike angina, a heart attack could lead to permanent and damaging results rather than being a temporary warning sign.

When your old ticker doesn’t get the blood it needs to function; it can lead to muscle breakdown and, in some cases, even death.


Heart attack symptoms can vary. Mild symptoms are present in some people. Others display serious symptoms. Some individuals show no symptoms. Typical heart attack signs include:

  • Chest pain
  • Pain that spreads to the shoulder, arm, back, neck, jaw, teeth or sometimes the upper belly
  • Cold sweat
  • Fatigue
  • Heartburn 
  • Lightheadedness 
  • Nausea
  • Shortness of breath

Unusual symptoms in women can include sharp or abrupt neck, back, or arm pain. Sometimes the first sign of a heart attack is a sudden cardiac arrest.


A blockage causes most heart attacks in one of the blood vessels that nourish your heart. The main reason is plaque, a sticky substance that can build up inside your arteries. This buildup is referred to as atherosclerosis.

A blood clot may form when a plaque deposit inside the coronary (heart) arteries ruptures, blocking the artery. The clot’s blockage of the artery, which might deprive the heart muscle of blood, may cause a heart attack.

The following factors can lead to this form of heart attack:

  • Coronary artery spasm
  • Any disease that causes unusual narrowing of blood vessels
  • Trauma
  • A blood clot or air bubble in a coronary artery
  • Electrolyte imbalance
  • Eating disorders
  • Stress cardiomyopathy
  • Anomalous coronary arteries 

Types of Heart Attack:

STEMI: A rapid medical response is required for a STEMI heart attack. These attacks take place when a significant section of the coronary artery is completely blocked, preventing the heart from receiving blood. As a result, the heart muscle gradually deteriorates, which may eventually cause it to stop beating.

NSTEMI: NSTEMI heart attacks occur when the coronary artery is partially blocked, and blood flow is severely restricted. Even though they are less dangerous than STEMI heart attacks, they can have long-term adverse effects.

Coronary artery spasms: These spasms may sometimes be referred to as silent heart attacks or unstable Angina. They happen when the blood vessels in the heart tighten, stopping or reducing blood flow. There is no long-term harm from the symptoms, which are milder than those of other types of coronary artery disease.

Angina vs. Heart Attack: Differences & Similarities


Angina, also known as angina pectoris, is “a disorder characterised by intense chest discomfort, frequently extending to the shoulders, arms, and neck, due to inadequate blood supply to the heart.”

When this process continues long enough to harm the heart muscle, a heart attack happens permanently. 


The most typical cause of Angina and a heart attack is plaque buildup, which causes the blood arteries that supply the heart muscle with blood to become narrowed. These plaques can grow slowly at times, burst or rip at other times, and a blood clot forms, acutely restricting the artery either totally (angina) or partially (heart attack or myocardial infarction).

In certain rare cases, artery spasm, coronary artery embolism, a heart valve issue, or a failure of the microvasculature to dilate adequately may be the cause of Angina or a heart attack.

Alarming signs:

Recognizing the signs of Angina or a heart attack is crucial for receiving the right care. The primary symptom is shortness of breath accompanied by tightness in the centre of the chest that may spread to the neck or left arm. However, symptoms can vary significantly from person to person, including shortness of breath and a general uneasy sensation, stomach discomfort, jaw pain, and left or right shoulder pain.

Does Angina Lead to Heart Attack?

Chest pain from Angina is brought on by inadequate blood supply to the heart’s muscles. Although it normally isn’t life-threatening, it is a symptom that you may be in danger of having a heart attack or stroke. Angina can be managed with medication and healthy lifestyle modifications, lowering the likelihood of developing these more severe issues.

Frequently Asked Questions:

How long will you have Angina before a heart attack?

Pain from Angina usually lasts for 5 to 10 minutes in stable Angina and at least 20 minutes in unstable Angina. 

Is Angina more painful than a heart attack?

Heart attacks and Angina can have similar symptoms. Both could result in pain or discomfort that spreads to the back, arms (particularly the left arm), shoulders, arms, chest, and jaw—tightness in the chest, burning, heaviness, a feeling of being squeezed, or difficulty breathing.

What is the quick solution to cure Angina?

Angina is frequently treated with nitrates. So that more blood can flow to the heart, nitrates relax and widen the blood vessels. Nitroglycerin is the kind of nitrate that is most frequently used to treat Angina. Under the tongue is where the nitroglycerin tablet is put.

Should you go to the ER for Angina?

Your electrocardiogram, or EKG, is probably requested by nurses and doctors to see if you have a severe heart condition. Therefore, you should visit an ER if you have Angina or any other heart issue.

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