Angina is chest pain caused by restricted blood flow to the heart (called ischemia). It often occurs when you are under emotional or physical stress, such as exercise. When the heart does not get enough oxygen from the coronary arteries, you feel a squeezing chest pain or pressure across your chest that usually goes away after you stop the activity. The most common cause of angina is hardening of the arteries (atherosclerosis).

Chest pain that is fairly predictable and usually occurs when you exercise is called stable angina. It is relieved with rest or nitroglycerin. Chest pain that occurs when you are resting, or at unpredictable times, is known as unstable angina. Unstable angina can lead to a heart attack, so you should immediately call 911 if you experience symptoms.

It can be difficult to determine whether chest pain is something serious or a milder condition. For that reason, you should always see a doctor. Angina can lead to a heart attack, so you should never try to diagnose or treat it on your own.

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Review Date: 12/19/2015  

Reviewed By: Steven D. Ehrlich, NMD, Solutions Acupuncture, a private practice specializing in complementary and alternative medicine, Phoenix, AZ. Review provided by VeriMed Healthcare Network.

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