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Angina attack

Angina is a type of chest pain that someone gets when the arteries carrying blood to their heart muscle become narrowed. This can restrict the blood supply and so cause pain called an angina attack.

An angina attack is different from:

  • • a heart attack which is when the blood supply to the heart muscle is blocked, and
  • • a cardiac arrest when the heart actually stops working.

Angina attacks are usually caused by physical exertion, stress or excitement. But if someone has unstable angina, then their attacks can be unpredictable, with no obvious cause.

Angina is not life-threatening on its own. But, someone who suffers from it is at far greater risk of having life-threatening problems, such as a heart attack or stroke.

If the casualty rests and take angina medication, the pain should only last a few minutes. If the pain lasts longer, presume it’s a heart attack.

Watch our video - angina attack

What to look for - angina attack

The four key things to look for are:

  1. 1. Pain - in the chest, which may spread to the jaw and arms
  2. 2. Shortness of breath
  3. 3. Sudden and extreme tiredness
  4. 4. Anxiety

What you need to do - angina attack

Help the casualty to stop what they’re doing and sit down straight away. Reassure them and make them comfortable ‒ this should help ease the pain.

Ask if they have any angina medication, like tablets or a spray.

If they have, then help them to take it. If the pain is still there five minutes after taking  the medication, suggest they take a second dose. If they’re still in pain after another five minutes, or the pain returns, presume it’s a heart attack. Call 999 or 112 for medical help.

If they haven’t got any medication, and the pain doesn’t go away when they sit down or rest, then call 999 or 112 for medical help immediately.

If the pain goes away completely within 15 minutes after they’ve rested and/or taken medication, they should usually be able to go back to what they were doing, if it’s not too strenuous.

If they’re worried about what’s happened, tell them to see their doctor.

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