Coronary Artery Disease (cont.)
IN THIS ARTICLE
Symptoms of coronary artery disease
The most common symptoms of coronary artery disease are:
Other symptoms include:
Symptoms of heart attack
For men and women, the most common symptom is chest pain or discomfort. But women are somewhat more likely than men to have other symptoms like shortness of breath, nausea, and back or jaw pain.
Women are also more likely than men to delay seeking help for a possible heart attack. Women delay for many reasons, like not being sure it is a heart attack, or not wanting to bother others. But it is better to be safe than sorry. If you have symptoms of a possible heart attack that last for 5 minutes, call
For more information about prevention and treatment of coronary artery disease in women, see the topic Women and Coronary Artery Disease.
Unfortunately, sometimes a heart attack is the first sign of coronary artery disease.
Some people who have coronary artery disease and insufficient blood flow to the heart muscle (ischemia) do not have any symptoms. This is called "silent ischemia." In rare instances, you can even have a "silent heart attack," a heart attack without symptoms.
Angina (chest pain or discomfort)
Chest pain or discomfort, also called angina, is the most common symptom of coronary artery disease. Angina may have a distinct pattern. Angina can be described as:
The chest pain of angina usually begins at a low level, then increases over several minutes to a peak. Angina that starts with an activity usually will decrease when the activity is stopped. Chest pain that begins suddenly or lasts only a few seconds is less likely to be angina.
Angina usually begins in the chest, but it can also start in or spread to different areas of the body, such as:
Some people may feel tingling or numbness in their arm, hand, or jaw when they have angina.
See a picture of areas that may be affected by angina.
How does angina happen?
Angina is often brought on by activities that make the heart work harder, because the heart needs more oxygen than can be delivered through the narrowed arteries. Some of these activities include:
Many people have stable angina, which is predictable. It eases after they rest or take nitroglycerin, a medicine that opens blood vessels to improve blood flow. But if there is a change in the usual pattern of your angina, you may have unstable angina. In unstable angina, chest pain occurs at rest or with less and less exertion, may be more severe and last longer, or doesn't respond to nitroglycerin. Because unstable angina can progress to a heart attack, it requires medical attention right away.
For information about their differences, see stable versus unstable angina. For information about variant, or Prinzmetal's, angina and other kinds of angina, see types of angina. For more information, see the topic Heart Attack and Unstable Angina.
How do you know if chest pain is heart-related?
Chest pain and shortness of breath are more likely to be serious and related to your heart if:
Your chest pain is less likely to be caused by a heart problem if:
It's important to treat symptoms early to prevent permanent damage to your heart. If any type of chest pain continues, it needs to be checked by a doctor.
Because many vital organs are found in the chest, even chest pain that is not caused by coronary artery disease may be a sign of a serious problem in the aorta (the large blood vessel that leads out of the heart), lungs, or digestive organs.
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