Chronic Angina

What is chronic angina?

Chronic angina is a symptom of coronary artery disease where the arteries become narrowed due to plaque buildup. This reduces oxygen and nutrients to the heart muscle, and causes chest pain or discomfort. It can feel like pressing or squeezing pain, and typically lasts from a few minutes to a few hours.

Unlike acute angina which happens due to physical exertion, chronic angina is constant and usually does not go away even when at rest. It can affect people of any age, but is particularly common among those aged 40 and above.

Causes & Risk Factors

Chronic angina is most often caused by atherosclerosis, or a narrowing of the coronary arteries due to plaque buildup. Other conditions that may contribute to the narrowing of the arteries are high cholesterol, diabetes, and high blood pressure.

Risk factors for coronary artery disease and chronic angina include smoking, a family history of heart disease, age, gender, obesity, and an unhealthy diet. People with diabetes are also at higher risk, and the condition worsens with age.

Signs & Symptoms

The primary symptom of chronic angina is a feeling of chest discomfort or pain. It can appear as chest tightness, heavy pressure, or a burning sensation. It may feel like squeezing or pressing pain, lower chest discomfort, arm, shoulder, or jaw pain, shortness of breath, profuse sweating, nausea or vomiting, dizziness, and palpitations.

The chest pain can last for a few minutes to a few hours. It may be triggered by physical activity, eating, or emotional stress, and may be relieved by rest or nitroglycerin.

Diagnosis & Treatment

The doctor will conduct a physical examination and ask about the patient’s medical history and symptoms. Tests to diagnose chronic angina may include:

  • X-ray or ultrasound of the chest
  • Stress test or exercise ECG
  • Computed tomography (CT) scan
  • Magnetic resonance imaging (MRI)
  • Cardiac catheterization

Treatment of chronic angina may include lifestyle changes such as quitting smoking, exercising regularly and eating a healthy diet. Medications such as nitrates and beta-blockers may also be prescribed to help relieve the symptoms. In some cases, surgery or angioplasty may be necessary to open narrowed arteries.


The best way to prevent chronic angina is to lead a healthy lifestyle, exercise regularly, maintain a healthy weight, and quit smoking. Other strategies such as eating a healthy diet rich in fruits, vegetables, and whole grains, and limiting the intake of saturated and trans fats, can help reduce the risk.