When plaque (a blend of cholesterol and other fatty substances) accumulates in the coronary arteries, it can prevent sections of the heart from receiving sufficient amounts of oxygen-rich blood – a serious condition known as cardiac ischemia.
A patient with this disease is at greatest risk of ischemia during periods of excitement, stress, or physical exertion, times when the heart demands increased blood flow that it cannot provide because of blocked arteries. In such situations, the heart is deprived of the oxygen and nutrients it needs to function properly, and heart attack or stroke can occur.
Causes of Ischemic Heart Disease
Plaque heavy in cholesterol can collect on the walls of the arteries, and in turn trigger ischemic heart disease.
Detrimental lifestyle habits such as smoking; consuming foods rich in trans-fat, salt and sugar; and not exercising can all play a major role in the onset of heart disease. In some cases, however, the accumulation of plaque deposits in the arteries is simply a result of aging or genetic disorders like hypercholesterolemia (high levels of “bad” LDL cholesterol).
Symptoms of Ischemic Heart Disease
Not all patients with ischemic heart disease experience noticeable symptoms, but those who do often report:
- Unusually fast, irregular, or skipped heart beats
- Shortness of breath
- Chest pain
- Increased sweating
- Weakness and dizziness
Diagnosing Ischemic Heart Disease
- Blood tests
- Electrocardiograms (EKGs)
- Coronary angiograms
- Cardiac catheterization
- Computed tomography (CT) scans
- Magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) scans
- Nuclear imaging
Treatments for Ischemic Heart Disease
For others, lifesaving procedures are necessary, such as:
- Stent placement
- Coronary artery bypass graft (CABG) surgery
- Heart transplant