Angina in elderly: Causes, symptoms, and complications

angina in elderlyAngina in the elderly is quite a common occurrence. It is characterized by tightness in the chest and chest pain as a result of reduced blood flow to the heart. Angina is not a disease on its own, but rather a symptom of coronary artery disease. Patients may experience tightness, pain, squeezing, pressure, or heaviness of the chest.

Angina is sometimes referred to as angina pectoris, and can either be a chronic condition or appear suddenly.


The scary part about angina is that although common, any pain that is experienced in the chest could potentially be linked to a life-threatening heart condition, so it should not be ignored.

Angina can be managed, but only if it is diagnosed. If you experience chest pains, you should be tested for angina and also work towards reducing your risk factors that could contribute to heart disease and heart attack.

Causes and risk factors of angina in elderly

Angina results from a restricted blood flow to the heart, for example, when a person has coronary artery disease (CAD). In CAD, arteries become narrow due to plaque buildup – known as atherosclerosis. Having high LDL cholesterol or having high blood triglycerides can contribute to atherosclerosis.

Angina pain isn’t constant, and you may wonder why. If your arteries are always narrow, then why isn’t the resulting pain chronic? This is because when the demand for oxygenated blood is low, there is reduced blood flow. If the demand for blood increases, that is when symptoms are commonly experienced.

There are three types of angina: stable, unstable, and variant. Stable angina refers to angina that is triggered by physical or emotional exertion. Unstable angina is when plaque in the blood vessels either ruptures or causes a blood clot, so the blood flow is reduced or blocked very suddenly. Unstable angina is not relieved by your common medications – rather, it requires emergency treatment.

Variant angina is caused by a spasm in the coronary artery, which causes temporary narrowing of the artery. This type of angina can occur both at rest and during activity. Although it can be relieved with medications, it can still be a very severe condition.

Contributing factors to angina include high blood pressure, high-fat diet and cholesterol, lack of exercise, smoking, diabetes, older age, and a family history of angina or other heart-related conditions. By controlling these risk factors, you can better prevent angina or at least better manage the condition if already diagnosed.

Signs and symptoms of angina

multiple sclerosisThe primary symptoms of angina are chest pain that can feel like pressure, tightness, heaviness, or squeezing. Chest pain may also be accompanied by breathlessness, nausea, feelings of illness, feeling unusually tired, dizziness, and restlessness.

Symptoms may be triggered during times of high stress or physical activity if you have stable angina, or they may occur randomly if you have unstable or variant angina.

Complications of suffering from angina


If angina is not well managed it can contribute to other health complications, including heart attack, stroke, stress, anxiety, and depression. Many of the complications resulting from angina can be life threatening, and that is why it is so important to not only manage the condition, but also reduce your risk of experiencing any of these complications.

This can be done by controlling the risk factors associated with angina as they are the same risk factors that can contribute to poor emotional health, along with heart attack or stroke.

Managing your diabetes, cholesterol, and blood pressure, not smoking, avoiding or minimizing alcohol consumption, exercising regularly, eating a healthy diet, and managing a healthy weight can go a long way in reducing your risk of angina and the risk of complications, too.

Author Bio

Emily Lunardo studied medical sociology at York University with a strong focus on the social determinants of health and mental illness. She is a registered Zumba instructor, as well as a Canfit Pro trainer, who teaches fitness classes on a weekly basis. Emily practices healthy habits in her own life as well as helps others with their own personal health goals. Emily joined Bel Marra Health as a health writer in 2013.


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