Angina Overview


Angina is an uncomfortable chest pain in the centre of the chest that can feel as though it is coming directly from the heart.

It is considered one of the most common cardiovascular issues, with around 96,000 individuals being diagnosed with the condition each year.1 Whilst angina is not normally life-threatening, the American Heart Association reports that it is a warning sign for cardiovascular diseases.2

What is Angina?

Whilst it is commonly mistaken as a condition itself, angina pectoris (more commonly referred to as angina), is actually a symptom of coronary artery disease. The term ‘angina’ refers to the bouts of chest pain coronary artery disease patients tend to experience. It is reported that angina is prevalent in over 100 million people worldwide.Angina alone is not a life-threatening condition, rather is a symptom that requires immediate medical attention.2 The type of angina a patient is diagnosed with can fall into one of four categories.

Stable Angina

Chest pain that is normally triggered by some form of physical activity. Pain normally subsides once the individual stops performing the activity. According to the British Heart Foundation, stable angina is the most common type of angina and can normally be easily controlled by medication and lifestyle changes.4

Unstable Angina

Chest pain that does not always have an obvious trigger and may not go away once the individual rests. Unstable angina is considered a medical emergency as it cannot always be controlled by medication and may require surgical interventions.

Variant Angina

Chest pain that is caused by a spasm in the coronary arteries, temporarily causing them to become narrower, and therefore restricting the amount of oxygenated blood and nutrients that flow to the heart’s muscles.

Microvascular Angina

Chest pain that occurs when the microvessels responsible for allowing oxygenated blood to the heart’s muscles are unable to open properly, restricting the supply the heart receives. 


The severity and type of symptoms an individual with angina experiences can differ slightly depending on the cause of their pain; however, most angina patients will experience some of the symptoms listed below. If you or someone you know regularly experiences any of these symptoms, book an appointment with your healthcare provider immediately.

  • Chest pain (random or triggered by exercise)
  • Pressure, tightness, or discomfort in the chest
  • Breathlessness
  • Feeling nauseous and vomiting
  • Feeling fatigued


In most cases, angina pain is caused by a blocked or narrowed coronary artery. Throughout our life, plaque and fatty deposits can build up on the walls of our arteries, a process known as atherosclerosis. During atherosclerosis, the space for blood to flow through the artery becomes narrowed and, in some cases, completely blocked. Consequently, the heart does not receive an adequate supply of oxygen and nutrients, meaning it begins to grow weaker and become damaged, causing us to experience chest pain (angina).

Risk Factors

As discussed above, the majority of angina patients experience chest pain due to the buildup of plaque and fatty deposits in their coronary arteries. However, there are a wide range of risk factors that can accelerate and increase the amount of build up within the arteries, increasing the risk of angina. Below are some of the most prominent risk factors.

  • Inactive lifestyle
  • A diet high in saturated fats, salts and sugars
  • Obesity
  • Alcohol consumption/smoking/drug usage
  • Stress
  • High blood pressure
  • High cholesterol
  • Diabetes

Prevent Angina by Making a Few Changes to Your Lifestyle

Like most medical conditions, coronary artery disease (and therefore angina) can be prevented by making a few healthy lifestyle changes. Below are a few changes that you could make that will help significantly reduce your risk of angina.


GOV.UK recommends at least 150 minutes of aerobic exercise per week, this includes exercises like walking, jogging, cycling and swimming.4 Research has found that following these guidelines can be extremely beneficial and  reduces  the chance of developing angina by 15%.5

Healthy Eating

Eating a healthy and balanced diet can have a wide range of health-related benefits, including improved cardiovascular health. In future, try and consider the following whilst planning your meals to help prevent angina.

  • Eat 5 portions of fruit and vegetables a day
  • Limit foods high in saturated fats and salts
  • Limit foods high in sugar
  • Try and chose wholemeal products (brown) over white products

Relaxation techniques

Research has identified psychological stress as a risk factor for a wide range of cardiovascular complications, including angina. Taking time out of your day to relax is essential for both mental and physical health. If you find yourself regularly over stressed, try practising a few relaxation techniques to find what works best for you.

Stop Smoking

Heart Research Institute UK state that in the UK alone smoking is responsible for 20,000 cardiovascular related deaths per year, therefore emphasising how important it is for those who smoke, to quit.6


Whilst not a condition itself, angina can have serious health implications if left untreated and therefore should be taken seriously. If you or someone you know regularly suffers from any of the symptoms listed previously, ensure to book an appointment with your healthcare provider immediately. If you do have angina, the sooner you begin treatment the easier it is to manage it, allowing you to continue to lead a normal life and limit the number of angina attacks you suffer from.


  1. ‘Angina in Women Can Be Different Than Men’. Www.Heart.Org,
  2. Kenneally, Edel. ‘Use Heart to Act Now on Angina’. Global Heart Hub, 20 Apr. 2021,
  3. Angina - Causes, Symptoms & Treatments.
  4. ‘Health Matters: Getting Every Adult Active Every Day’. GOV.UK,
  5. Letnes, Jon. ‘Peak oxygen uptake and incident coronary heart disease in a healthy population: the HUNT Fitness Study’. European Heart Journal.
  6. ‘Smoking • Heart Research Institute UK’. Heart Research Institute UK,

George Evans

MSc, Sport Science, University of Lincoln

George is a freelance writer with three years of writing experience and first class honours in Sport Science (BSc).

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