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Diagnosis - Angina

You may need to have several tests to diagnose angina.

Seeing a GP

If you see a GP after an attack of chest pain, they may ask about:

  • the symptoms you had
  • what you were doing when the symptoms started
  • your lifestyle – for example, what your diet is like and if you smoke or drink
  • your family's medical history – heart problems can run in families

They may also do some checks to assess the likelihood of a heart problem, such as:

  • measuring your blood pressure
  • calculating your body mass index (BMI) – this involves measuring your weight and height
  • measuring your waist size
  • blood tests to check your cholesterol (blood fats) level

If they think you might have angina or another heart problem, they may refer you to hospital for some tests.

Tests in hospital

You may have tests to check if you have angina and assess your risk of more serious problems like heart attacks or stroke.

You may have:

  • an electrocardiogram (ECG) – a test to check your heart's rhythm and electrical activity
  • a coronary angiography – a scan taken after having an injection of a dye to help highlight your heart and blood vessels
  • an exercise ECG – an ECG carried out while you're walking on a treadmill or using an exercise bike
  • blood tests

What happens if you have angina

What happens next depends on the type of angina you're diagnosed with.

There are 2 main types:

  • stable angina (the most common type) – attacks have a trigger (such as exercise) and improve with medicines and rest
  • unstable angina (the more serious type) – attacks are more unpredictable and can continue despite resting

If you have stable angina, you'll be given medicines to treat attacks when they occur and reduce the risk of further attacks.

If you have unstable angina, you may need to stay in hospital at first. Some checks will be done to assess your chances of having another attack and help decide on the best treatment.

Page last reviewed: 22 April 2021
Next review due: 22 April 2024