Stable angina, or chest pain you get during stress, exercise or cold weather, is a warning sign that you have heart disease. At times when your heart needs more oxygen, heart disease limits how much oxygen-rich blood reaches your heart. You can take medicine for stable angina, but you’ll most likely need to make some lifestyle changes, too.
Stable angina (angina pectoris) is a type of chest pain that happens when your heart muscle needs more oxygen than usual but it’s not getting it at that moment because of heart disease. This can happen when it’s cold outside or you’re exercising, for example. Stable angina is a temporary chest pain, but it can eventually lead to acute coronary syndrome.
About 10 million Americans have angina. Stable angina is the most common type.
Older adults who have heart disease usually get stable angina.
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Stable angina can turn into unstable angina. Signs of this include having chest pain that:
Stable angina symptoms include:
In most cases, coronary artery disease causes stable angina when you exert yourself or feel stressed. If a blood clot or atherosclerosis creates a block or obstacle in your coronary artery, this limits the amount of blood that can get to your heart muscle.
Other causes include:
Risk factors for coronary artery disease include:
Your provider will do a physical exam.
Your healthcare provider may order:
You’ll need to rest and/or take nitroglycerin when you’re experiencing stable angina. Your provider may want you to make some changes, like eating healthier.
Stable angina treatment may also include:
You can take nitroglycerin when you’re experiencing stable angina. To help prevent stable angina from happening again, your provider may order:
Any medicine can have side effects, but your provider considers the benefits and the risks before prescribing medicine for you. Surgical risks can vary depending on your age and which other health problems you have.
Keep taking medicines for your other health problems, such as high cholesterol. Take nitroglycerin when you’re having stable angina.
Nitroglycerin should work in a few minutes.
Preventing heart disease can reduce your risk of stable angina.
Ways you can do this include:
Once you know what sets off your stable angina, you may be able to prevent it from happening again.
For example, you can:
If you had stable angina after exerting yourself, you can expect it to happen again when you repeat that exercise or activity. You should feel better when you move more slowly or stop moving.
Angina happens more frequently in the early morning hours.
The pain lasts a few minutes.
Most people’s stable angina gets better after they take medicine and rest. However, having stable angina means you have a higher risk of having a heart attack.
Be sure to keep taking the medicines your provider ordered. If your provider asks you to eat healthier or stop smoking, do it to improve your health. It can be helpful to keep a record of each time your stable angina happens.
Contact your provider when:
You should call 911 when:
Stable angina can be dangerous, but it’s mostly a warning sign that you could be at risk for a heart attack. You probably need to make some lifestyle changes.
Yes, if you have stable angina, you could have a heart attack in the future if you don’t reduce your risk.
A note from Cleveland Clinic
Because your stable angina can become unstable angina or lead to a heart attack, it’s important to keep taking your medicines and keep going to your medical appointments. You may also need to make changes to how you live, such as finding ways to handle stress, exercising, cutting fast food out of your diet and quitting smoking. Stable angina is a warning sign that you already have heart disease, but you can work with your provider to get healthier.
Last reviewed by a Cleveland Clinic medical professional on 09/23/2021.
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