Ischaemic heart disease is the number one cause of death in the United States, and it is one of the leading reasons for admittance to hospitals. Also known as myocardial ischaemia, it is the condition of restricted blood flow to the heart. This is typically the result of other heart disease, including atherosclerosis.
CAUSES OF ISCHAEMIC HEART DISEASE
“Ischaemic” refers to a restriction in blood supply to any organ, and the cause of ischaemic heart disease is restricted blood flow to the heart. This is typically caused by atherosclerosis, or hardening of the arteries, in which plaque (cholesterol) attaches to the walls of the arteries and impedes blood flow. When the heart does not get enough blood, parts of it can die or become dysfunctional. When blood cannot flow to the heart, fresh oxygen cannot be supplied.
SIGNS AND SYMPTOMS OF ISCHAEMIC HEART DISEASE
Ischaemic heart disease is frequently known as “the silent killer,” as it affects fourteen million Americans every year, and three to four million are unaware of ever having a cardiac ischemic episode. However, there are some signs of ischaemic heart disease for which individuals can be on the lookout. Exercise stress tests are one method of detecting ischaemic heart disease, as they monitor a patient’s blood flow and cardiac rhythm. Irregularities may suggest cardiac ischemia.
Chest pain or angina pectoris is another symptom of ischaemic heart disease. This presents as a heavy feeling in the chest, or squeezing, burning, or tightness. This pain can also extend to the arms. This pain usually follows physical activity, and the severity of the angina can depend on the stress involved. Cold weather and emotional stress can also trigger a patient’s angina, and can precipitate a heart attack. This pain typically dissipates after the stress is removed. However, it should be noted that all ischaemic heart disease patients do not present with angina, and regular tests should be administered to determine if cardiac ischemia is a concern.
The most definite sign of ischaemic heart disease is a heart attack, major or minor, though such episodes should obviously be avoided at all costs. Of course, for any questions about ischaemic heart disease, its causes or signs and symptoms, please consult your physician or a cardiologist for more information.
Source: “Silent Ischemia and Ischemic Heart Disease.” American Heart Association. http://www.americanheart.org/presenter.jhtml?identifier=4720. Accessed 7 January 2009.