Diabetes and Angina

Diabetes and angina are linked, maybe not surprisingly, because of the comprehensive effects of diabetes and the negative conditions it tends to cause or enhance. As if you didn’t already have enough to think about. Let’s take a look how diabetes interacts with angina and exactly what you need to know about angina.

What is Angina?

Angina is the term to describe the chest pain or discomfort you get if your heart muscle does not get an adequate blood supply. The type and severity of the pain can vary from person to person. Often the pain feels like pressure or even a squeezing pain in your chest. It can also feel similar to indigestion. Interestingly, the pain may also manifest itself in your shoulders, arms, neck, jaw or back.

Angina is not a condition or disease unto itself. Instead, angina is a symptom of heart disease, a.k.a., coronary artery disease (CAD). CAD occurs when plaque adheres to the sides of your arteries. Plaque is a sticky substance that your body can develop for a variety of reasons including but not limited to poor dietary or lifestyle choices and hereditary issues.

As the plaque builds up, the supply of blood to your heart goes down. In some cases, blood flow can be completely blocked. Arterial plaque build-up can significantly increase your chances of developing a heart attack, stroke and even death.

You can see how this process affects your arteries with this great graphic from the National Institute of Health:


Basically, what happens in the case of angina is that when blood flow is restricted to the heart, less oxygen and nutrients are delivered to the heart muscle cells. The heart starts to look for alternative fuels and the byproduct of burning these alternative fuels is lactic acid. The lactic acid build up causes the pain you experience.

You should also note that not all chest pain or discomfort is angina. Nonetheless, if you are experiencing chest pain, you need to see a health care professional sooner rather than later.

Symptoms of Angina

Angina can occur at times of stress, exposure to cold weather, eating a heavy meal, and even at rest.

As detailed above, the most common symptoms of angina is a tightening or pressure in the chest. This pain can also spread to other areas including the neck, jaw, arms and shoulders.

Other common symptoms of angina can include:

  • Perspiration
  • Anxiety
  • Breathlessness
  • Dizziness
  • Quickened Pulse

When one or more of these symptoms are experienced, it is absolutely necessary that the person contact a doctor to review what might be causing this condition. Seeing your doctor is particularly important for diabetics, as there may be a number of lifestyle changes that can be made to improve this condition.


As you now know, angina is caused by plaque buildup in your arteries. But, what causes the plaque buildup?

Here is a partial list of possible causes:

  • High Cholesterol
  • Smoking
  • High Blood Pressure
  • Excess Weight
  • Lack of Exercise
  • Stress

Geez, do any of these sound familiar?

You should also note that you can also be predisposed to developing plaque, as hereditary influences can be very strong. Also, as discussed below, diabetes and angina is more common. Regardless of how it is caused, what are you going to do about it?


angina treatments
Depending upon your situation, there are a number of different treatment options. I can already tell that many of you are not going to like what you read. Just kidding, but you will note that the lifestyle treatments are things you probably have been told before!

Lifestyle Changes:

Eat Healthier: Avoid the big, rich meals. Eat more fruits and vegetables. Check out my many diet reviews to see if a wholesale diet change is right for you. Personally, I like the South Beach Diet and the Mediterranean Diet.

Lose Weight: Shocking, I know. But you need to lose the muffin top.

Exercise: Again, this is one of those shocking revelations, but there it is. Get off the couch and start the exercise program.

Medical Options:

Medicine: Try talking with your doctor to see if you need to take a medication to help you. Maybe it is a high blood pressure or high cholesterol med.

Aspirin Treatment: Your doctor may also recommend an aspirin regimen to help thin the blood.

Medical Procedure: Chances are if you are reading this, it hasn’t come to a medical procedure. This is good. For those of you who do not take the proactive measures discussed above, you have a to look forward to the possibility of getting a stent in your arteries or even worse.

The Diabetes and Angina Connection

Now the diabetes and angina connection. Having Diabetes can greatly increase the chances of developing angina. As you know, controlling your blood sugar is the key to diabetes control. If you have a lot of blood glucose spikes, or maintain a high blood sugar level, complications inevitably arise.

What complications? High blood pressure and high cholesterol are just two. Regardless, angina is just one symptom of a diabetes complication that you can experience if you do not have control over your diabetes.


Want more Diabetes and Angina information? Here you go! There are four types of angina: stable, unstable, microvascular and prinzmetal’s (variant).

Stable Angina: This angina type is the most common. It typically has a regular pattern and occurs when the heart is working harder than normal. Stable Angina is not a heart attack, but means you better watch out, you may get one down the line! Usually resting can make the pain go away.

Unstable Angina: This type of angina is the most dangerous. It does not follow a pattern and can happen without physical exertion. It may not go away with rest or medicine. It is a sign that you could have a heart attack soon.

Prinzmetal’s Angina: This angina type is rare and usually occurs while you are resting.

Microvascular Angina: This angina type is typically more severe and longer lasting than the other types. Medicine may or may not help. Microvascular Angina can be a symptom of coronary Microvascular disease (Coronary MVD). MVD is a type of heart disease affecting the smallest heart arteries.

This is a lot of information, so hopefully you found it helpful. Diabetes and angina symptoms can unfortunately be linked.


NIH Angina
Diabetes Suffolk
NIH Angina
By Erich Schultz – Last Reviewed May 2012.