Ischemic Heart Disease

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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 also called coronary heart disease 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.


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.

Common symptoms of ischemic heart disease

You may experience ischemic heart disease symptoms daily or just occasionally. Common symptoms include chest pain, chest pressure, or shortness of breath:

  • Is relieved by rest or medicine
  • May feel as if pain starting in the chest spreads to the arms, back, or other areas
  • May feel like gas or indigestion (more common in women)
  • Occurs repeatedly; episodes tend to be alike
  • Occurs when the heart must work harder, usually during physical exertion
  • Usually lasts a short time (five minutes or less)
  • Chest pain, typically on the left side of the body (angina pectoris)
  • Clammy skin
  • Nausea with or without vomiting
  • Pain in the neck or jaw
  • Rapid breathing (tachypnea) or shortness of breath
  • Shoulder or arm pain


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.

Ischemic heart disease may develop slowly, as plaque builds up over time, or it may occur quickly if an artery is suddenly blocked. For this reason, ischemic heart disease occurs most frequently in people who have atherosclerosis (buildup of plaque on the walls of the coronary arteries), blood clots, coronary artery spasm, or severe illnesses that increase the heart’s need for oxygen.

Risk factors

A number of factors increase the risk of developing ischemic heart disease. Not all people with risk factors will get ischemic heart disease. Risk factors for ischemic heart disease include:

  • Diabetes
  • Family history of heart disease
  • High blood cholesterol
  • High blood pressure
  • High blood triglycerides
  • Obesity
  • Physical inactivity
  • Smoking and other tobacco use

Reducing your risk of ischemic heart disease

You may be able to lower your risk of ischemic heart disease by:

  • Carefully managing your diabetes, if applicable
  • Getting regular physical activity
  • Keeping your cholesterol at a healthy level
  • Maintaining normal blood pressure
  • Quitting smoking and other tobacco use
  • Reducing the amount of cholesterol and fat in your diet


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.


Drug therapy is commonly used for treatment of ischemic heart disease and includes:

  • Angiotensin-converting enzyme (ACE) inhibitors, which relax the blood vessels and lower blood pressure
  • Angiotensin receptor blockers (ARBs), which lower blood pressure
  • Anti-ischemic agents such as ranolazine (Ranexa)
  • Antiplatelet drugs, which prevent the formation of blood clots
  • Beta-blockers, which lower the heart rate
  • Calcium channel blockers, which reduce the workload on the heart muscle
  • Nitrates, which dilate the blood vessels
  • Statins, which lower cholesterol

Many different medicines are available to treat ischemic heart disease. Your health care provider will work with you to select the appropriate medications, depending on your individual condition. It is important to follow your treatment plan for ischemic heart disease precisely and to take all of the medications as instructed.

Surgical procedures

Severe symptoms that are not relieved by medication alone are treated with surgical procedures including:

  • Angioplasty and stent placement (a procedure to remove plaque and restore blood flow in clogged arteries)
  • Coronary artery bypass graft (a procedure that helps restore blood flow to the heart by routing the flow through transplanted arteries)

In addition to following your treatment plan, you may be able to improve your resistance towards ischemic heart disease by:

  • Carefully managing your diabetes, if applicable
  • Getting regular physical activity
  • Keeping your cholesterol at a healthy level
  • Maintaining normal blood pressure
  • Quitting tobacco use
  • Reducing cholesterol and fat in your diet

Potential Complications

You can help minimize your risk of serious complications by following the treatment plan you and your health care professional design specifically for you. Complications of ischemic heart disease include:

  • Arrhythmia (irregular heart rhythm)
  • Chronic angina
  • Congestive heart failure
  • Heart damage
  • Myocardial infarction (heart attack)

Hope this article is Helpful 🙂 🙂

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