Angina and Heart Attack Basics

One should be aware of heart attack symptoms since this knowledge can make a life and death difference.  Two broad symptom groups exist that is angina and heart attack.

Angina: Typical crushing chest pain which goes over to the left shoulder and upper arm is rather uncommon.  Instead a feeling of pressure on the central chest, feeling of choking in the throat, feeling uneasy or nauseous are much more common.  Often a sense of doom is pervasive.  Indian patients call it "ghabrahat" that literally means feeling uneasy, anxious and disturbed.


Should these symptoms come about upon exertion or stress and be relieved by rest and relaxation; one can be pretty sure that this has to do with an abnormal heart.  Angina is caused by reduction of blood flow in the heart muscle; almost always due to  narrowing in coronary arteries that develops over time, and so is frequently seen in older individuals.

Heart Attack:  All the symptoms as above that are not relieved immediately can cause localised heart muscle damage, called myocardial infarction or heart attack.  Typically the symptoms of angina are more prolonged, more severe and accompanied by nausea, intense cold sweats. Patients that suffer a heart attack require immediate hospitalisation and intensive treatment.

Heart attacks can occur in people who have been suffering from angina for many months or years.  Such heart attacks tend to occur in older individuals and often cause limited heart muscle damage.  We know that slow progression of coronary artery narrowing somehow protects the heart from major damage.  On the other end of spectrum are the relatively young patients who may never have suffered any  ill-health.  They suddenly develop a major heart attack, with large areas of heart muscle damage that could threaten survival.  We know that such heart attacks develop due to sudden rupture of the inner lining of the coronary arteries that don't have any narrowing.  These younger individuals are more likely to have major complications if untreated.

Posted on February 12, 2013 .