So if chest pain lasts under a certain period of time, like really short, would this mean it CAN’T be from angina and thus nothing to worry about? Or can angina cause sudden but very brief shots of chest pain?
Here’s the answer from a cardiologist to what the shortest duration of time is for angina pain.
For this article I consulted with Donna P. Denier, MD, of The Cardiology Center with the Appalachian Regional Healthcare System.
“Anginal pain typically lasts at least a few minutes and sometimes as long as hours,” says Dr. Denier.
“It lasts as long as the demand on the heart is greater than the supply. That means that the pain usually lasts as long as the activity or stress that is causing it.
“Once a person knows they have angina, they may stop an activity as soon as they feel the pain come on. In that case, it may last only a very brief time like a minute or so. This is not common, however.
“Most brief episodes of chest pain (seconds) are not angina. All chest pain should be reported to your doctor.”
What about unstable angina?
This is when the pain, from insufficient blood flow in the heart, occurs spontaneously—when the person is at rest, under no stress. This type may even occur in their sleep and awaken them.
How long can unstable angina last?
“Unstable angina means there has been a change in the pattern of your known angina,” says Dr. Denier. “It may be more frequent, last longer than usual or be brought on more easily, sometimes even at rest,” she explains.
“It suggests that there is a serious blockage of one of the coronary arteries. This type of angina may last for hours.”
It wouldn’t be short-lived, “and it would most often be associated with other signs of coronary artery disease such as sweating or nausea or shortness of breath.”
In particular, this kind of angina will be brought on by physical exertion (as will the stable kind)—even something as seemingly innocuous as going up a flight of stairs or quickly pushing a shopping cart across asphalt will usually bring it on.
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.