Sudden stress or anxiety has a specific way of causing angina or chest pain, even in healthy people.

A person who does not have heart disease (plaque buildup in the coronary arteries) can still experience chest pain as a result of anxiety or stress.

When a person has chest pain from a shortage of oxygen in the heart, caused by clogged arteries, this is called angina.

“Mental stress leads to the release of catecholamines in your body, hormones that help your body to protect itself,” says Donna P. Denier, MD, of The Cardiology Center with the Appalachian Regional Healthcare System.

“This is the body’s ‘fight or flight’ mechanism. Catecholamines cause an increase in your heart rate and blood pressure which increases your heart’s need for oxygen.

“Catecholamines can also cause your blood vessels to constrict. Sometimes the heart can pump so hard that it cuts off its own blood supply by squeezing the coronary arteries! All of these mechanisms can lead to chest pain.”

donna denier, md

Dr. Denier has been practicing medicine for over 15 years and is board certified by the American Board of Internal Medicine – Cardiovascular Disease.
Lorra Garrick has been covering medical, fitness and cybersecurity topics for many years, having written thousands of articles for print magazines and websites, including as a ghostwriter. She’s also a former ACE-certified personal trainer.  



Top image: Shutterstock/Charnchai Saeheng