ISCHEMIC HEART DISEASE

Ischemic heart disease—often referred to as coronary artery disease or informally as heart disease—is the No. 1 killer of Americans and a major cause of death worldwide, according to the National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute.  

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 

Ischemic heart disease is usually diagnosed when a healthcare provider performs a physical exam and completes certain diagnostic tests, which may include: 

  • Blood tests 
  • Echocardiograms 
  • Electrocardiograms (EKGs) 
  • Coronary angiograms  
  • Cardiac catheterization 
  • Computed tomography (CT) scans 
  • Magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) scans
  • Nuclear imaging 

Treatments for Ischemic Heart Disease 

Treatment of ischemic heart disease varies according to the severity and number of artery blockages. For many patients, making lifestyle changes and taking medications that increase blood flow to the heart are enough to manage the disease. Sometimes, a narrowed artery may even grow blood vessels that skirt the blockage and create a new route for blood to reach the heart.  

For others, lifesaving procedures are necessary, such as:
  • Stent placement 
  • Coronary artery bypass graft (CABG) surgery  
  • Heart transplant  
The world-class physicians and healthcare providers at Tampa General Hospital work closely together to treat adult patients who have ischemic heart disease individually, with each patient’s overall health and personal preferences in mind.