Thanks to decades of public education, many adults realize that the gripping pain they feel in their chest isn’t necessarily indigestion.
An estimated 14 million individuals in the United States have ischemic heart disease, according to the American College of Cardiology. This condition is also known as ischaemic heart disease, coronary artery disease, ischemic cardiomyopathy and coronary artery disease. It kills half a million Americans every year and continues to top the charts as the leading cause of death in the U.S.
Around 4 million individuals have few if any symptoms. They remain unaware of their risk for developing angina pectoris, suffering a heart attack or experiencing sudden death.
The AARP indicates that coronary artery disease occurs as the result of blockages in the arteries that carry blood and oxygen to the heart. Patients might also have a buildup of cholesterol and plaque in the vessels that transport oxygen to heart muscle tissue. As time passes, the heart muscle works less efficiently. This makes it harder for the heart to fill and release blood.
Ischemic heart disease in itself is a common cause of congestive heart failure. The condition most commonly appears in men who are middle-aged or elderly.
Risk factors for coronary artery disease include diabetes, high blood pressure, obesity and smoking. Also on the list are following a high-fat diet and having a personal or family history of a heart attack, angina, atherosclerosis or other coronary artery diseases.
In the early stages of ischemic heart disease, patients might not show any signs of the illness, according to the Mayo Clinic. However, as fatty deposits from cholesterol and plaque accumulate in the arteries, three types of symptoms can appear.
Chest pain. Doctors refer to this pain as angina. A patient experiences pressure or tightness in the chest and often complains that it feels like someone is standing on his or her chest. Physical or emotional stress usually triggers this pain. It usually disappears a few minutes after the activity that caused it ends. The pain can be fleeting or sharp and evident in the abdomen, especially in women.
Shortness of breath. When a patient has coronary artery disease, his or her heart is unable to pump enough blood to take care of the body’s needs. This can develop into shortness of breath or extreme fatigue during or after exertion.
Heart attack. A heart attack can occur once a coronary artery becomes completely blocked. Patients report feeling a crushing pressure in their chest and pain in the shoulder or arm. Some experience shortness of breath and sweating. Women are more prone than men to experience the more unusual signs of a heart attack, such as nausea and back or jaw pain. It’s important to be aware that sometimes patients with ischemic heart disease experience a heart attack without any apparent signs or symptoms.
If an individual shows any risk factors for this condition, his or her doctor might order tests for coronary artery disease. This is especially true is the patient has any signs or symptoms of narrowed arteries. Early diagnosis and treatment of ischemic heart disease can sometimes halt the progression of the condition and help prevent a heart attack.
American College of Cardiology site
Mayo Clinic site