Both can result in chest pain
, pressure or squeezing that can radiate into the neck, jaw or arm and can be accompanied by other symptoms such as sweating, dizziness
, or nausea
. There are important differences though.
Angina is brought on by exertion and relieved by rest or certain medications, such as nitroglycerin
. It is the result of chronic cholesterol buildup in one or more of the coronary arteries, which restricts adequate blood flow to heart muscle during periods of increased activity. Angina usually resolves within 15 minutes of stopping activity or taking nitroglycerin. When someone experiences angina for the first time, or when their angina is provoked more easily this is called unstable angina
and requires immediate medical attention.
As opposed to angina, heart attacks happen suddenly and the symptoms can be more severe and persist much longer. Heart attacks are a result of a sudden blockage of the coronary blood vessel, typically by a ruptured cholesterol plaque
. Heart attack symptoms persist until the blockage resolves, or if it does not resolve, until the heart muscle dies. Not all patients with heart attacks have angina prior. Heart attacks are a medical emergency and always require immediate medical attention.