Angina is the the pain you feel when your heart does not get enough oxygen.  Your heart may not be getting enough oxygen because the arteries that take blood and oxygen to your heart may have become smaller because of a build-up of fatty deposits (called plaque or atherosclerosis).


Angina may not feel the same to all people.  It can feel like:

  • A crushing or squeezing discomfort in the center of your chest
  • Chest pressure or pain
  • Discomfort or pain in your jaw, teeth, shoulder, upper back, or down your arm (arm may feel numb)
  • Unusual shortness of breath
  • A burning feeling under your breastbone (can feel like heart burn)


Nearly 10 million people in America have angina, and an estimated 500,000 will develop angina every year. Reducing the following risk factors may help control your angina and prevent a heart attack:

  • Cigarette smoking
  • High blood pressure
  • High LDL (bad cholesterol)
  • Low HDL (good cholesterol)
  • High triglycerides
  • High blood sugar (over 100 mg/dL)
  • Being overweight
  • Not exercising
  • Stress

You may also feel angina under certain conditions, called the 4 Es, or "triggers."

The 4 Es include:

  • Eating a large meal
  • Exercise and other physical activity
  • Emotions
  • Extremely cold weather

If you experience angina with any one of these triggers, be aware that having two triggers at once (such as exercising in extremely cold weather) may cause you to have angina more easily.


There are a number of tests available to help learn more about your angina.  These tests will help your doctor or nurse determine the best treatment for you.

  • Resting electrocardiogram (EKG or ECG)
  • Exercise test (stress test)
  • Echocardiogram (ECHO)
  • Cardiac cath (coronary angiogram)
  • Thallium test


There are two types of treatment for angina- controlling your risk factors and medicines and procedures to prevent or relieve your angina.

Medicines available include:

  • Beta-blockers
  • Calcium channel blockers
  • Late sodium channel blocker
  • Nitroglycerin

Procedures include:

  • Angioplasty and stent
  • Heart bypass surgery
  • Enhanced External Counterpulsation (EECP)

Helpful hints for taking your medicine

  • Always take your medicines as told.
  • Be sure to tell your doctor or nurse about any side effects from your medicine.
  • Never stop or change your medicines without talking to your doctor or nurse.
  • Do not share your medicines with others.


You can take control of your angina in a number of ways.  Follow these tips to stay as healthy and active as possible:

Use a Daily Record for Angina- this includes writing down the date/time, trigger, grade, how long your angina lasted, and the action you took to relieve angina symptoms. Download and print the Daily Record for Angina.

Exercise Safely

  • Ask your doctor or nurse to help you develop an exercise plan.
  • Consider asking for a referral to a cardiac rehabilitation program.
  • Exercise at least 30 minutes a day.  Warm up and cool down for best results.  Remember to consider the weather and how certain conditions may trigger your angina.
  • As your doctor or nurse if you should add strength training to your exercise plan.

Performing Daily Activities

  • Daily activities such as housework or shopping  can cause angina.  Ask your doctor or nurse to help you develop a daily activity plan.
  • Many people get angina during sex.  Ask your doctor or nurse for suggestions on how to avoid angina during this time.
  • Angina doesn't stop while you're traveling.  Follow the tips listed at the right to travel safely.

Put Yourself, Your Family, and Your Friends at Ease

  • Talk to your family and friends about your angina.
  • Have a plan for getting medical help if necessary.
  • Lower your stress- use these Life Skills to help during times of stress.
  • Live a healthy life by getting enough sleep, exercising, eating right, taking your medicines as prescribed, and controlling your risk factors.

Travel Tips

  • Take along all of your medicines and keep them with you at all times.
  • Do not put your medicines in bags you plan to check.
  • Pack extra medicine in case your travel plans change.
  • Take a list of all your medicine

Download & print information about Angina


This comprehensive booklet will help you understand and take control of your angina.


This brochure provides quick information about angina, including how to reduce attacks and how to cope with symptoms.

Download English

Download Spanish

The fifth edition of this booklet and brochure is part of "Get Tough on Angina," a program of education  and information for patients with angina and their families, funded through an educational grant from Gilead Sciences, Inc.

Disclaimer: This and other PCNA educational materials are for information purposes only and are not intended to replace medical advice or diagnose or treat health problems. Health-related decisions should be made in partnership with a healthcare provider. It is the reader's responsibility to seek out the most current, accurate information.