Stable vs Unstable Angina: Difference and Comparison

Angina is chest pain caused due to an insufficient supply of oxygen to the heart muscles. A squeezing tightness in the chest characterizes it.

It is not a disease but a symptom of any underlying heart disease. It is caused due to the narrowing or blocking of anyone coronary artery. Stable and unstable angina are two types of angina.

Key Takeaways

  1. Stable angina occurs predictably during physical exertion, whereas unstable angina is unpredictable and may occur at rest.
  2. Stable angina is relieved with rest or medication, while unstable angina requires urgent medical attention.
  3. Unstable angina carries a higher risk of heart attack than stable angina.

Stable vs Unstable Angina

Stable angina is predictable and relieved with rest or medication, while unstable angina is unpredictable and requires urgent medical attention. Unstable angina can also indicate that a heart attack is imminent, so it is important to seek immediate medical attention if experiencing symptoms.

Stable vs Unstable Angina

Stable angina occurs when a person does heavy physical activities like swimming, running, etc. Since it accompanies physical exercise, it is predictable. It lasts for about 5 minutes.

Resting or taking medications can relieve the symptoms. Stress can also cause angina. Stable angina is also called angina pectoris.

The pattern of occurrence of stable angina can be tracked.

Unstable angina is characterized by chest pain that occurs during rest. It is not caused by stress or physical activity.

The frequency of pain worsens with time. Unstable angina indicates that the blockage in a blood vessel supplying the heart has reached a critical stage.

Unstable angina is severe and needs medical care.

Comparison Table

Parameters of ComparisonStable AnginaUnstable Angina
Chest PainOccurs during emotional stress or physical activitiesOccurs during rest.
PredictabilityStable angina is PredictableUnstable angina is not predictable
DiagnosisElectrocardiogram, Angiography, stress test, Cholesterol and CRP protein tests.Electrocardiogram, echocardiography, stress test, creatine kinase test, cardiac biomarker test. Stress tests, coronary angiography, and catheterization are done
TreatmentLifestyle changes and Nitroglycerine medication.Emergency treatment by a specialized cardiologist
SeverityIt is not severe but if untreated can lead to unstable anginaCan lead to myocardial infarction and cardiac arrest
CauseCaused by low oxygen supply to heart muscles during exercise and workNarrowing of an artery due to plaque deposition

What is Stable Angina?

Stable angina or Angina pectoris is the most common angina. It occurs while doing exercise or any other harder activities, so the pattern of occurrence can be tracked and prevented.

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It is less serious than unstable angina but painful. Though it is not serious, it may indicate an underlying disease.

So it requires medical attention.

The pain feels like a heavyweight resting on your chest. It is felt in the middle of the chest and spreads to the neck and shoulders.

Other symptoms include nausea, dizziness, fatigue, shortness of breath, anxiety, and sweating.

The risk factors for stable angina are obesity, heart disease, high cholesterol or Blood Pressure, smoking, diabetes, and lack of exercise.

Diagnosis is made by Electrocardiogram and Angiography. These tests are run to ensure the heart’s proper functioning and to detect any blocks’ presence.

Cholesterol and CRP protein levels are also tested. Doctors advise their patients to take a stress test to find out if angina has been caused by stress.

Treatment of stable angina consists of several lifestyle changes, medications and surgery if required. Reducing physical activity can also help to manage the symptoms.

Exercising regularly, eating a healthy diet consisting of fresh vegetables, fruits, and whole grains, and quitting smoking are some lifestyle changes one can make to avoid stable angina.

What is Unstable Angina?

Unstable angina is a serious condition and needs immediate medical care.

The most common cause of unstable angina is coronary artery disease which is caused by the deposition of plaques along the walls of the artery.

This plaque buildup eventually narrows the artery and blocks the flow of blood. Lack of blood flow causes a decrease in the supply of oxygen to the heart, which leads to chest pain.

Risk factors of Unstable angina include obesity, diabetes, family history of heart disease, high blood pressure, high LDL, low HDL, and using tobacco.

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Men are more prone to unstable angina. Men over 45 years and women over 55 years are susceptible to unstable angina.

Symptoms include chest pain that spreads to the left arm and back. Nausea, anxiety, sweating, dizziness, shortness of breath, and fatigue.

Electrocardiograms and echocardiography are used to diagnose unstable angina. A blood test is done to check for creatine kinase and cardiac biomarkers.

Stress tests, coronary angiography, and catheterization are also done.

Unstable angina is treated with blood thinners like heparin, aspirin, and clopidogrel. Surgery is also done in severe cases to remove the block.

A stent is inserted into the blocked artery to keep it open.

Lifestyle changes like eating a healthier diet, exercising, lowering stress by meditation, losing weight, and quitting smoking can lessen the chances of unstable angina.

Main Differences Between Stable and Unstable Angina

  1. Stable angina is caused due to heavy physical activity. But, Unstable angina is caused due to blocks in the arteries supplying blood to the heart muscles.
  2. Stable angina does not retain for long and is not serious. Unstable angina may retain for a long period and get severe.
  3. Stable angina is caused after exercise or any other heavy work. In contrast, unstable angina occurs during rest.
  4. Stable angina is predictable but unstable angina is not predictable.
  5. Nitroglycerin is used to treat stable angina. It is taken in the form of a pill which is kept under the tongue. Doctors in emergency care should give treatment for unstable angina. Blood thinners can be taken.
  6. Stable angina can be prevented or cured by not getting involved in hard physical activities. While unstable angina can be treated by surgery, a catheter is inserted into the blocked artery and inflated to keep it open.
Difference Between Stable and Unstable Angina

Last Updated : 13 June, 2023

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11 thoughts on “Stable vs Unstable Angina: Difference and Comparison”

  1. The article presents a clear distinction between stable and unstable angina. Understanding the differences in symptoms and treatment is essential for anyone dealing with heart disease.

    • I agree, the article effectively communicates the key differences between stable and unstable angina. It’s an important read for those seeking to educate themselves about heart health.

  2. The information presented in the article is enlightening and is sure to help individuals understand the key differences between stable and unstable angina.

  3. The article effectively communicates the complex distinctions between stable and unstable angina. It’s an essential read for anyone who wants to be well-informed about heart health.

  4. A very thorough and informative article. I learned a lot about the different types of angina, and the treatment options available. I appreciate the comparison between the two types.

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    • I agree, the article provides a comprehensive overview of stable and unstable angina. The comparison table is particularly helpful in understanding the differences.

  5. The article was very informative. It provides a clear understanding of the symptoms, diagnosis, and treatment of both stable and unstable angina.

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    • I agree, the article’s detailed explanation of the differences between stable and unstable angina is helpful for those seeking to understand these conditions.


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