Healthdirect Free Australian health advice you can count on.

Medical problem? Call 1800 022 222. If you need urgent medical help, call triple zero immediately

healthdirect Australia is a free service where you can talk to a nurse or doctor who can help you know what to do.

beginning of content

Angina

3-minute read

If you ever experience pain in the chest, you know it can be a scary experience. Chest pain can be caused by many things, including angina. It's important to get medical help as soon as possible, so you can find out what's going on and how you can manage it.

Symptoms of angina

Angina causes temporary discomfort in the chest that usually happens during physical activity or when someone is upset. It goes away after a few minutes.

If it’s a heart attack, the pain can come at any time, even during rest. It’s more common to feel nauseous or to vomit. A heart attack won’t be relieved by angina medication.

Angina can cause:

  • pain or discomfort in the chest, often described as squeezing, pressure or tightness
  • pain in the arms, shoulder, neck or back, even if you don’t have pain in the chest
  • shortness of breath
  • fatigue
  • sweating
  • dizziness
  • nausea

If you have any of these symptoms, see your doctor.

If your pain lasts longer than 10 minutes, call triple zero (000) and ask for an ambulance.

What causes angina?

Angina is caused by insufficient blood flow to the muscles of the heart.

Even though the heart is full of blood, this blood is about to be pumped through the body. The muscles of the heart need their own supply of blood. That blood is carried through the coronary arteries, which sit on the outside of the heart.

If you have coronary artery disease (also known as coronary heart disease), then these arteries have become narrowed by fatty deposits known as plaques. Narrowed arteries can’t carry as much blood as they should. The lack of blood causes angina.

Diagnosis of angina

To help diagnose angina, your doctor will talk to you about your symptoms and examine you.

You will probably be asked to have some of the following tests:

  • an electrocardiogram (ECG)
  • A blood test called troponin that measures damage to the heart muscle
  • chest x-ray
  • an exercise stress test, which measures blood pressure and heart activity during exercise
  • an echocardiogram, which uses sound waves to create an image of your heart
  • an angiogram

What to do if you get angina

If you have any symptoms of angina, immediately stop, sit down and rest.

If your symptoms are still there once you’ve stopped, take your usual angina medication, if you have some.

If the symptoms are still there in 5 minutes, repeat the dose. Tell someone how you’re feeling, whether that’s by phone or simply the nearest person.

If the symptoms are getting worse, or are still there in 5 more minutes, call triple zero (000) and ask for an ambulance.

Longer term treatment of angina

Treatment aims to reduce symptoms and reduce the risk of heart attack or stroke.

Mild angina will respond well to:

  • a healthier diet
  • increasing physical activity (safely, under the supervision of your doctor)
  • reducing stress
  • quitting smoking, if you smoke

Your doctor might prescribe nitrates to relax your blood vessels, so more blood flows to your heart. You might also need other heart medications like beta-blockers or aspirin.

If you have severe angina, you might need surgery such as angioplasty or coronary artery bypass surgery.

Your doctor might advise you to join a cardiac rehabilitation program, to help you manage your angina and reduce the risk of further heart problems.

More information

For more information on angina and other heart conditions, visit the Heart Foundation.

You can also check your symptoms using our symptom checker.

Learn more here about the development and quality assurance of healthdirect content.

Last reviewed: March 2020


Back To Top

Need more information?

These trusted information partners have more on this topic.

Top results

Angina

Angina is chest pain or discomfort caused by insufficient blood flow and oxygen to the muscle of the heart.

Read more on WA Health website

What is angina | Heart Foundation 

Angina is not a disease and those with it can live a long and active life. Find out more about angina symptoms, treatment, and management.

Read more on Heart Foundation website

Angina - myDr.com.au

Angina can affect people in different ways and the symptoms may vary at different times. It usually lasts only a few minutes and can be relieved by rest and/or medicines.

Read more on myDr website

Troponin (I or T) - Lab Tests Online AU

Why and when to get tested for troponin

Read more on Lab Tests Online AU website

Chest pain - Better Health Channel

If in doubt about the cause of your chest pain, call an ambulance.

Read more on Better Health Channel website

EST: Exercise Stress Test & Results Explained | HealthEngine Blog

Last updated: 13 December 2017

Read more on HealthEngine website

Arrhythmias (abnormal heart rhythms)

Arrhythmia is when you have an abnormal heart rhythm and heart palpitations are an awareness of your heartbeat.

Read more on WA Health website

Medical tests for heart disease | Heart Foundation

Learn about the common tests your doctor may want you to have to diagnose your heart condition.

Read more on Heart Foundation website

Nuclear Medicine Cardiac Stress Test - InsideRadiology

InsideRadiology provides free and easily accessible, accurate, up to date and credible information about medical imaging tests and procedures.

Read more on InsideRadiology website

Coronary heart disease

The underlying cause of coronary heart disease is a slow build up of fatty deposits on the inner wall of the blood vessels that supply the heart muscle with blood (the coronary arteries).

Read more on WA Health website

Healthdirect 24hr 7 days a week hotline

24 hour health advice you can count on

1800 022 222

Government Accredited with over 140 information partners

We are a government-funded service, providing quality, approved health information and advice

Australian Government, health department logo ACT Government logo New South Wales government, health department logo Northen Territory Government logo Government of South Australia, health department logo Tasmanian government logo Government of Western Australia, health department logo