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Coronary heart disease symptoms

2-minute read

If your coronary arteries become partially blocked, it can cause chest pain (angina). If they become completely blocked, it can cause a heart attack (myocardial infarction).

Some people experience different symptoms, including palpitations and unusual breathlessness. In some cases, people may not have symptoms of coronary heart disease at all before they are diagnosed.

If you think you are having a heart attack, dial triple zero (000) for immediate medical assistance.

Angina

Angina symptoms usually occur during exertion or severe emotional stress. The pain usually fades away with rest.

Pain and discomfort are the main symptoms of angina which is described as pressure, squeezing, burning or tightness in the chest. The pain may feel like indigestion. Some people say that angina pain is hard to describe or they can't tell exactly where the pain is coming from.

The most common symptoms of angina can include:

  • pain or discomfort in the middle of the chest
  • pain may be accompanied by breathlessness and sweating
  • pressure or a feeling of tightness in the chest
  • radiating pain to the neck, jaw and left arm, or both arms
  • sometimes, radiating pain in the upper back and shoulders

Signs and symptoms such as nausea, fatigue, dizziness, sweating, light-headedness, or weakness also may occur.

Heart attacks

Symptoms of a heart attack are:

  • chest pain, usually located in the centre of your chest. It can feel like a sensation of pressure, tightness or squeezing
  • pain travelling from your chest to your arms, jaw, neck, back, shoulders and abdomen
  • shortness of breath
  • an awareness of your heart beat or 'palpitations'
  • feeling sick
  • being sick
  • an overwhelming sense of anxiety (similar to having a panic attack)
  • feeling light-headed or dizzy
  • breaking out in a cold sweat

The discomfort or pain of a heart attack is similar to that of angina, but it is often more severe and usually longer lasting.

Or you may experience minimal or no pain.

Unlike angina, the symptoms of a heart attack are not usually relieved using a nitrate tablet or spray.

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Last reviewed: January 2020


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