Angina is a symptom, not a disease, but it can appear in coronary artery disease. These are the similarities and differences you may find helpful.
There are many kinds of angina, but they are all symptoms that usually occur as a result of an underlying heart problem. Coronary artery disease (CAD) also is not a singular disease but rather a group of conditions that can affect the structure and function of your heart.
This article will explore the differences between these two cardiac issues, how to determine the cause of your symptoms, and when to seek medical care.
Angina is considered
CAD is a group of conditions that cause a lack of blood flow to your heart, as the arteries narrow or become blocked off and prevent blood from flowing as it otherwise would to your heart.
As these blood vessels narrow and block blood flow, you also experience a reduction in oxygen to your heart. Conditions that are usually grouped into this category include:
- unstable angina
- acute coronary infarction
- sudden cardiac death
Angina happens when the flow of blood and oxygen to your heart is reduced, causing ischemia.
Ischemic heart disease (
Angina develops as a result of muscle strain in your heart that is caused by the lack of blood flow, and it’s a
In addition to angina,
- cold sweats
- neck pain
- shortness of breath
The cause of
CAD is often referred to as the “
For most people, the risk of CAD increases after the age of
If detected early on, atherosclerosis and other contributing factors to CAD may be slowed or even stopped with medications, treatments, and lifestyle changes.
Treatment for CAD depends on the severity of your symptoms. If CAD is diagnosed early when you have minimal symptoms, adopting a heart-healthy diet and lifestyle can help you slow the progression of the disease and avoid severe complications such as heart attack.
In more advanced cases of CAD in which your symptoms are significant enough to affect your daily activities, more aggressive treatment is usually required to avoid heart attack or even death.
Treatments for CAD may
- medications to open your blood vessels and increase blood flow, such as beta-blockers, calcium channel blockers, or ACE inhibitors
- medications to lower your cholesterol level and prevent additional plaque buildup, such as statins
blood thinners(anticoagulants) to help blood flow more easily through narrowed blood vessels
- antiplatelet medications
If lifestyle changes and medications aren’t enough to reduce your symptoms and manage your CAD, your healthcare team may recommend procedures such as:
- percutaneous coronary intervention to physically open blocked arteries
- coronary artery bypass grafting, which involves transplanting pieces of healthy arteries to replace narrowed or blocked sections in your heart
You and your healthcare team will decide what treatment is best for your specific situation based on your individual lifestyle, needs, and overall health condition.
Stable angina doesn’t typically decrease life expectancy, but the impact angina has on your life span depends on the extent of the heart damage that your chest pain is signaling.
CAD has been shown to significantly decrease life span, but the extent of that decrease depends on when it’s diagnosed and how it’s treated. The American Heart Association (AHA)
In contrast, people without heart disease who have a heart-healthy lifestyle add about 10 years to their life span. A
Regular visits to a primary care doctor can help identify heart conditions such as CAD early and increase the benefits of your treatment. If you experience severe chest pain that doesn’t go away after 5 minutes of rest, gets worse, or comes with other symptoms such as shortness of breath, call 911 or seek medical attention immediately.
CAD is the result of a lifetime of plaque buildup in your arteries. This buildup slows blood flow to your heart, resulting in the disease’s most common symptom: angina.
On its own, angina is not a disease, but it is often a symptom of underlying problems and should prompt you to make an appointment with a healthcare professional or seek immediate medical care.