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Symptoms Of Coronary Artery Disease

The most common symptom of coronary artery disease is angina , often referred to as chest pain (also called angina pectoris). It is also described as chest discomfort, heaviness, tightness, pressure, aching, burning, numbness, fullness, or squeezing. It can be mistaken for indigestion or heartburn. Angina is usually felt in the chest, but may also be felt in the left shoulder, arms, neck, back or jaw.

Other symptoms that may occur with coronary artery disease include:

  • Shortness of breath
  • Palpitations (irregular heartbeats, skipped beats or a “flip-flop” feeling in your chest)
  • A faster heartbeat
  • Dizziness
  • Nausea
  • Extreme weakness
  • Women often have different symptoms of coronary artery disease than men.
  • Pain or discomfort in the chest, left arm or back
  • Unusually rapid heartbeat
  • Shortness of breath
  • Nausea or fatigue
  • Sweating in Women

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What you should do if you have symptoms?

  • If you or someone you are with has chest, left arm or back pain that lasts more than 5 minutes, with one or more of the symptoms listed previously, call 1066 to get emergency help. DO NOT WAIT! Quick treatment of a heart attack is very important to reduce the amount of damage to your heart.
  • Aspirin: After calling 1066, emergency personnel may tell you to chew one full (325 mg) aspirin slowly, if you do not have a history of aspirin allergy or active bleeding. Aspirin is especially effective if taken within 30 minutes after the start of symptoms. Do NOT take an aspirin for symptoms of a stroke.
  • If your symptoms stop completely in 5 minutes, still call your doctor to report your symptoms.
  • Call your doctor if this is the first time you have experienced these symptoms so you can be evaluated.
  • Learn to recognize your symptoms and the situations that cause them.
  • Call your doctor if you have new symptoms or if they become more frequent or severe.
Angina is a warning symptom of heart disease, but it is not a heart attack. The symptoms of a heart attack (also called myocardial infarction [MI]) are similar to angina.
AnginaHeart Attack
Is brought on by a brief period of poor blood supply to the heart muscle Occurs when the blood supply to the heart muscle is blocked for an extended period of time (often due to a clot forming in a partially blocked coronary artery)
Does not cause permanent damage to the heart Results in permanent damage to the heart muscle
Symptoms last just a few minutes and are usually relieved by rest and/or medications. Symptoms include chest pain or discomfort, shortness of breath, palpitations, faster heart rate, dizziness, nausea, extreme weakness and sweating. Symptoms usually last more than a few minutes and include chest pain or discomfort that lasts for more than a few minutes or goes away and comes back; pain or discomfort in other areas of the upper body; difficulty breathing or shortness of breath; sweating or "cold" sweat; fullness, indigestion or choking feeling; nausea or vomiting; light-headedness; extreme weakness; anxiety; rapid or irregular heartbeats
Symptoms are relieved by rest and/or medications within a few minutes Symptoms are not relieved by rest or oral medications
Does not require emergency medical attention; however, it is important to call your doctor if this is the first time you've experienced angina, if you have new symptoms or if they become more frequent or severe Requires emergency medical attention if symptoms last longer than 5 minutes
What's the difference between angina and a heart attack?

If you have been prescribed Nitroglycerin

If you have been prescribed nitroglycerin and experience angina, stop what you are doing and rest. Take one nitroglycerin tablet and let it dissolve under your tongue, or if using the spray form, spray it under your tongue. Wait 5 minutes. If you still have angina after 5 minutes, call 1066 to get emergency help.

For patients diagnosed with chronic stable angina:

If you experience angina, take one nitroglycerin tablet and let it dissolve under your tongue, repeating every 5 minutes for up to 3 tablets spanning 15 minutes. If you still have angina after taking 3 doses of nitroglycerin, call 1066 to get emergency help.

Reference

ACC/AHA 2007 Guidelines for the Management of Patients with Unstable Angina/Non–ST-Elevation Myocardial Infarction. Journal of the American College of Cardiology. 2007;50(7):1-157.

Use of aspirin with unstable chest pain: After calling 1066, emergency personnel may tell you to chew one full aspirin (325 mg) slowly, if you do not have a history of aspirin allergy or active bleeding. Aspirin is especially effective if taken within 30 minutes after the start of symptoms. Do NOT take an aspirin for symptoms of stroke. Continue to take your nitroglycerin as prescribed.

Do not wait to get help

At the first signs of a heart attack, call for emergency treatment 1066. Do not wait for your symptoms to "go away." Early recognition and treatment of heart attack symptoms can reduce the risk of heart damage and allow treatment to be started immediately. Even if you're not sure your symptoms are those of a heart attack, you should still be evaluated.

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