Ischaemic Heart Disease

Ischaemic (or ischemic)heart disease is a disease characterized by reduced blood supply to the heart. Ischemic heart disease is also known as coronary artery disease or "hardening of the arteries".

Cholesterol plaque can build up in the arteries of the heart and cause "ischemia," which means the heart is not getting enough blood flow and oxygen. If the plaque blocks an artery, a heart attack can result. It is the most common cause of death in most western countries.

The coronary arteries supply blood to the heart muscle and no alternative blood supply exists, so a blockage in the coronary arteries reduces the supply of blood to heart muscle. Most ischaemic heart disease is caused by atherosclerosis, usually present even when the artery lumens appear normal by angiography.

Initially there is sudden severe narrowing or closure of either the large coronary arteries and/ or of coronary artery end branches by debris showering downstream in the flowing blood.

It is usually felt as angina, especially if a large area is affected.

The narrowing or closure is predominantly caused by the covering of atheromatous plaques within the wall of the artery rupturing, in turn leading to a heart attack (Heart attacks caused by just artery narrowing are rare).

A heart attack causes damage to heart muscle by cutting off its blood supply.

Up to 90 percent of heart attacks are due to: smoking, high cholesterol, high blood pressure, diabetes, abdominal obesity ("spare tire"), not eating enough fruits and vegetables, lack of exercise, drinking too much alcohol, and stress.

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