What is ischemic heart disease?

Ischemic heart disease is a condition of recurring chest pain or discomfort that occurs when a part of the heart does not receive enough blood. This condition occurs most often during exertion or excitement, when the heart requires greater blood flow. Ischemic heart disease is common in the United States and is a leading cause of death worldwide.

Ischemic heart disease develops when cholesterol particles in the blood begin to accumulate on the walls of the arteries that supply blood to the heart. Eventually, deposits called plaques may form. These deposits narrow the arteries and eventually block the flow of blood. This decrease in blood flow reduces the amount of oxygen supplied to the heart muscle.

The signs and symptoms of ischemic heart disease may develop slowly as arteries gradually become blocked, or they may occur quickly if an artery suddenly becomes blocked. Some people with ischemic heart disease have no symptoms at all, while others may have severe chest pain (angina) and shortness of breath that can pose a risk of heart attack.

Fortunately, ischemic heart disease can be treated successfully with lifestyle changes, medicines, and surgical procedures. Even better, you can reduce your risk of ischemic heart disease by following heart-healthy practices, such as eating a low-fat, low-sodium diet, being physically active, not smoking, and maintaining a healthy body weight.

Left untreated, ischemic heart disease may lead to severe heart damage. Heart damage can result in heart attack and shock and may be life threatening. Seek immediate medical care (call 911) for serious symptoms, such as difficulty breathing, which may be accompanied by pale or blue lips, rapid heart rate (tachycardia), and severe chest pain. Seek prompt medical care if you are being treated for angina but have mild symptoms that recur or are persistent.

SYMPTOMS

What are the symptoms of ischemic heart disease?

Ischemic heart disease reduces the flow of blood to the coronary arteries, which carry oxygen to the heart. This reduction in blood flow may result in a number of symptoms, which can vary in intensity among individuals.... Read more about ischemic heart diseasesymptoms

CAUSES

What causes ischemic heart disease?

Ischemic heart disease is caused by a decrease in blood flow through one or more of the blood vessels that carry oxygen to your heart (coronary arteries). When blood flow is reduced, the heart muscle does not receive the amount of oxygen it needs to function properly.... Read more about ischemic heart diseasecauses

TREATMENTS

How is ischemic heart disease treated?

Treatment for ischemic heart disease begins with seeking medical care from your health care provider. To determine if you have ischemic heart disease, your health care provider will ask you to undergo several diagnostic tests.... Read more about ischemic heart diseasetreatments

Medical Reviewer: All content has been reviewed by board-certified physicians under the direction of Rich Klasco, M.D., FACEP. Last Annual Review Date: May 2, 2011 Copyright: © Copyright 2011 Health Grades, Inc. All rights reserved. May not be reproduced or reprinted without permission from Health Grades, Inc. Use of this information is governed by the HealthGrades User Agreement.

Your Guide to Heart Disease

This Article is Filed Under: Heart Disease, Heart, Blood and Circulation


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When the heart muscle's blood supply is cut off, heart muscle cells fail to get enough oxygen and begin to die. What is this called?