Angina vs. Heart Attack: Recognizing the Differences and Seeking Help

Did you know that around 800,000 people (about half the population of Nebraska) have a heart attack in the US each year and 10 million experience angina? While both angina and heart attack are related conditions and cause somewhat similar symptoms, they are not the same. Learn the difference between heart attack and angina and know when you need to go to the ER in this article. Get a consultation with the best cardiologists in Brooklyn.

Differences between angina and heart attack

Angina and heart attack are the most common and frequently used words while discussing heart diseases. However, both are quite different from each other.

Angina, also known as angina pectoris, is a type of chest pain that occurs when your heart muscle is not able to pump enough blood into the body. This causes temporary or partial disruption in blood flow which causes chest pain or discomfort. It is a sign of coronary artery disease. Whereas a heart attack also known as myocardial infarction is an event that occurs when blood flow to the heart muscle is significantly reduced or completely blocked which can damage the heart muscle.

This means angina is a sign and heart attack is a medical problem. In other words, when your heart is not receiving enough blood, you develop angina, and heart attacks occur from lack of blood.

Both angina and heart attack usually occur when coronary arteries that supply blood to the heart muscle either get narrowed or blocked due to a buildup of cholesterol, fat, and other substances called plaque. The slow process of plaque buildup is called atherosclerosis, which doesn’t cause any symptoms or warning signs until the piece of plaque breaks off and forms a blood clot that blocks the blood flow in the arteries supplying blood to the heart muscle. This results in heart muscle being starved of oxygen-rich blood and results in angina and heart attack symptoms.


During a heart attack, you may experience symptoms such as:

  • Chest discomfort or pain in the center or on the left side of the chest that feels like a pressure, fullness, or squeezing sensation.
  • The pain lasts longer than a few minutes. It may go away or come back again
  • The pain may spread to the jaw, neck, back, arms, and shoulders.
  • Other symptoms may occur which include – weakness, lightheadedness, fainting, tiredness, shortness of breath, nausea, and vomiting.

If you are experiencing heart attack symptoms, you should immediately visit a hospital.

Unlike symptoms of heart attack, angina symptoms alert your body that something is wrong with your heart. Angina symptoms can also be triggered by intense feelings, physical exercise, extremely hot or cold temperatures, or a big meal. It may feel like:

  • Severe chest pain and pressure (often feels like squeezing, suffocating, or burning sensation in the chest).
  • The pain lasts for a few minutes and then goes away.
  • Other symptoms besides chest pain or discomfort are – pain in the neck, jaw, or shoulder, shortness of breath, abdominal pain, indigestion, nausea, vomiting, fatigue, and excessive sweating.

These symptoms don’t need immediate medical attention, however if it makes you worried you can get a doctor consultation.

Now you see there isn’t any major difference in symptoms of heart attack or angina.

However, angina symptoms only last for a few minutes, whereas heart attack symptoms last around 30 minutes or more. Angina symptoms can be triggered by anything that increases the amount of blood the heart needs such as emotional stress, extreme temperature, smoking, coronary heart disease, or intense physical activity. Whereas, a heart attack can occur at any time, without any triggers.

Usually, angina symptoms go away on their own by taking some rest, relaxation, and taking medications used to treat angina. But with a heart attack, you need emergency medical treatment to improve symptoms.

To sum up, angina and heart attack are different from each other.

When to go to the ER?

 If your angina is new, changing, or worsening, then don’t ignore it because you may develop into unstable angina, a severe angina type that occurs when your coronary artery disease is progressing, or you have a heart attack.

Some signs that may feel like having a heart attack or an increase in the risk of heart attack are:

  • New Chest pain
  • Worsening pain
  • Pain occurs with less physical activity than normal
  • Pain at rest
  • Pain that feels different than before.

If you have any of these symptoms, then go to the emergency department right away.

While both angina and heart attack are associated with coronary artery disease, they are not the same. Angina is a symptom of coronary artery disease, whereas a heart attack occurs when coronary artery disease damages the heart. Having angina doesn’t always mean you’re having a heart attack, but it may mean you are at risk. Chest pain may be scary or sometimes confusing, so when you are worried, visit your healthcare provider for consultation.

If you need help with chest pain or heart attack-like symptoms, visit our cardiology clinic in Brooklyn to get professional medical help. Call us on +1(347) 384-5690. The Cardiologists at Doral Health & Wellness consistently have outstanding patient satisfaction ratings. The professionals at Heart Specialist Brooklyn are able to greatly improve their patient’s health and quality of life because of their vast training and experience. New Yorkers can get the greatest medical, surgical, and cardiovascular care at Doral Health & Wellness Brooklyn. Visit us at 1797 Pitkin Avenue, Brooklyn, NY 11212.