Myocardial Infarction vs. Angina Pectoris

Many people often interchange myocardial infarction and angina

chest pain - angina - shock - fear - heart attack - outside

Heart attack or angina pectoris?

pectoris with each other. Although both are conditions of the heart brought about by insufficient supply of oxygen, they are two different and significantly serious disorders. Myocardial infarction, or simply known heart attack, is caused by death or permanent damage of heart cells due to inadequate amount of oxygen. On the other hand, angina pectoris is caused by a decrease on the blood supply to the heart from the coronary arteries. The former is considered a medical emergency and can be fatal if not treated early, while the latter is potentially dangerous, especially if left untreated. Angina pectoris is a known risk factor of myocardial infarction.

Main Differences of Myocardial Infarction and Angina Pectoris

  Myocardial Infarction (MI) Angina Pectoris
  • Plaque buildup inside the coronary arteries
  • Formation of blood clots
  • Heart spasm
  • Disease in the coronary arteries
  • Blocked arteries
  • Disease in the coronary arteries
  • Blocked arteries
Risk Factors
  • Smoking cigarettes
  • High cholesterol
  • Diabetes
  • Hypertension
  • Use of illegal drugs
  • Family history of MI
  • Smoking cigarettes
  • Physical exertion
  • Emotional stress
  • Family history of angina pectoris
  • Smoking cigarettes
  • Physical exertion
  • Emotional stress
  • Family history of angina pectoris
Treatment Medications such as Nitroglycerin, angiotensin-converting enzyme inhibitors, beta blockers, aspirin, and many other more medicines
  • Medications such as nitroglycerin
  • Rest
Medical Emergency Yes No


Signs and Symptoms of Myocardial Infarction and Angina Pectoris

It is important to distinguish myocardial infarction from angina pectoris, as one requires more urgent care than the other. The following are the common signs and symptoms of myocardial infarction and angina pectoris:

Myocardial Infarction

  • Excruciating or crushing pain that begins in the heart and spreads to the shoulders, jaw, neck and back
  • Nausea or vomiting
  • Dizziness and weakness, feeling faint
  • Cold and sweaty

Angina Pectoris

  • Pressing, squeezing, choking, bursting or burning sensation in the chest
  • Nausea
  • Shortness of breath
  • Fatigue

First Aid Management for Myocardial Infarction and Angina Pectoris

Management of patients with myocardial infarction and angina pectoris will differ greatly. However, it is necessary to give first aid immediately to patients that require it. The following is recommended in such cases:

Myocardial Infarction

  • Call for emergency medical services immediately.
  • Check for the patient’s airway, breathing and circulation. Initiate CPR if necessary.
  • Do not leave the patient alone at all times.

Angina Pectoris

  • Stop doing any current activity and ask the patient to lie down in a comfortable position with the head up.
  • If one has particular medications for angina, take it. If none, chew one regular adult aspirin or its equivalent.

If one is unsure whether a person is experiencing myocardial infarction or angina pectoris, it is better to call for emergency medical services to ensure proper care is given to the patient. To learn more about how to properly manage myocardial infarction and angina pectoris, enroll in First Aid Courses and CPR Training.

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