Though it can cause considerable pain, a heart attack is not to be confused with angina pectoris, which is a general term for pain in the chest. Recurrent angina may sometimes be a result of past heart attacks, according to WebMD.
A heart attack, known more technically as a myocardial infarction, is the result of impaired blood flow to a part of the heart, usually as a result of a blocked coronary artery, according to WebMD. The attack comes on over a period of seconds to hours, lasts for an indeterminate time and usually causes a great deal of pain in and around the chest. Sometimes, the pain radiates away from the chest and into the left arm or the jaw. A blocked coronary artery is a life-threatening condition and calls for immediate medical treatment.
Angina pectoris, sometimes just called angina, is a blanket term for any type of pain in the chest, whatever the cause. Some cases of chest pain are caused by a heart attack, while others may be a result of exhaustion, indigestion or pain from a heart that was damaged during a prior heart attack, according to WebMD. Any chest pain is potentially serious, and if the cause of pain is unknown, it is essential to seek medical attention at once.