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Chest Pain (Angina)

Angina is a common symptom of coronary artery disease (CAD) and heart attack. It occurs when your heart isn’t getting enough blood.

Angina causes chest pain or discomfort. It may feel like pressure on your chest or a squeezing pain in your chest. You may experience pain in your shoulders, arms, neck, jaw, or back, too. Angina can also cause shortness of breath, dizziness, and nausea.

Baystate Health’s heart and vascular team have extensive experience assessing and treating heart disease and heart attack. Plus, our cardiac catheterization labs are open 24 hours a day, 365 days a year for emergencies. Baystate Health is the place to go to in Western Massachusetts for your heart care.

Risk Factors

Your risk for coronary artery disease and angina is higher if you:

  • Smoke
  • Have diabetes
  • Have high blood pressure
  • Have high cholesterol
  • Are older
  • Have a family history of heart disease
  • Do not stay active
  • Are obese
  • Have a poor diet
  • Drink too much alcohol
  • Often experience stress or anger

Diagnosis

The Baystate Health heart and vascular team will review your symptoms and your health history before recommending the best test for you.

We can look for signs of heart disease using a variety of tests, including:

  • Blood test
  • Echocardiogram
  • Electrocardiogram (ECG or EKG)
  • Exercise Stress Test

Treatment

Treatment for angina can range from lifestyle changes and medication to angioplasty, stenting, or coronary bypass surgery.

Your Baystate Health cardiologist will recommend healthy habits, like quitting smoking, eating better, and managing your weight and your stress. Avoiding large meals, pacing yourself during physical effort, and starting a safe exercise program are other ways to avoid angina.

You may be a good candidate for medication to treat your angina and manage heart disease. Nitrates, aspirin, clot-preventing medication, and beta blockers are examples of medication that may help you.

If testing shows a blocked vessel, you may require a procedure or surgery.

  • Angioplasty and stenting can unblock a vessel. During an angioplasty, your doctor makes a small puncture hole into one or more of your blood vessels (usually in the groin or wrist area). A small wire with a balloon on the end is sent up into a blocked artery in your heart. Your doctor inflates the balloon to push the plaque (fatty deposits) against the artery wall. This makes more room for blood to flow. If necessary, a stent is then placed in the artery to maintain blood flow. A stent is a metal, mesh tube that is placed in the artery to help it stay open after angioplasty. This procedure is sometimes called percutaneous coronary intervention (PCI).
  • Coronary artery bypass graft surgery (CABG) is also called heart bypass surgery, or open-heart surgery. A CABG can improve blood flow to the heart by using an artery or vein from your chest wall, arm, or leg. These vessels then send blood around the blocked artery. This surgery may also decrease your risk of having a heart attack in the future.