Ischemia of the heart: what is it?

The heart muscle (myocardium) to perform its primary function requires large amounts of energy. Ischemia is insufficient blood flow to the myocardium, leading to oxygen and energy starvation of the cells. Ischemia of the heart is a frequent pathological condition that requires therapeutic correction, as its further development greatly increases the risk of myocardial infarction.

Myocardial ischemia – what is it, mechanism of development

The term «ischemia» is of Latin origin. It refers to a pathological condition characterized by insufficient blood supply to the area of an organ or tissue due to reduced clearance or obstruction of the feeding artery. Accordingly, the ischemia of the heart is insufficient blood circulation in the tissues of the heart (especially in the myocardium) associated with reduction of the lumen of one or more coronary (heart) arteries.

As the heart is in a constant state of functional activity, the cells to execute its operation requires the nutrients and oxygen needed for energy. Therefore, even a small reduction in the power area of the myocardium affects its functional state, leading to disruption of metabolic and energy processes in the cardiac myocytes (myocardial cells). Abrupt cessation of blood supply leads to death of area of heart tissue to heart attack.


The main etiological (causal) factor for cardiac ischemia is the reduction of the lumen of coronary arteries due to atherosclerosis. Atherosclerosis is a systemic metabolic pathology with increasing levels of cholesterol in the blood, leading to his deposition in arterial walls. This leads to the formation of an atherosclerotic plaque with reduction of the lumen of blood vessels and deterioration of blood flow in it.

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Such a process often develops in people aged 45 years and leads to a gradual decrease in the intensity of blood flow in the heart. In parallel, typically affects the renal arteries (the main factor in the development of hypertensive disease with the constant increase in blood pressure) and brain (cerebral atherosclerosis). The development of atherosclerosis and subsequent ischemia of the heart are provoked by several factors, which include:

  • The age of the person – the likelihood of developing atherosclerosis and relevant cardiovascular complications significantly increases with age.
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  • Genetic predisposition – features of cholesterol metabolism and the condition of the arteries are determined by different genes that are inherited from parents to children.
  • Low physical activity of a person throughout life – a systematic muscular loads contribute to a more intense blood flow, which prevents the deposition of cholesterol in arteries.
  • Craze fatty, fried foods, mostly of animal origin – import significant quantities of food containing cholesterol, promotes increase in blood and deposition in the vessel walls.
  • Bad habits – alcohol and nicotine constitute the vascular toxins, when consumed regularly they damage the inner lining of the arterial walls, where subsequently deposited cholesterol.
  • Gender – in connection with the peculiarities of regulation of metabolism in the body, influenced by sex hormones, in women, the risk of atherosclerosis and cardiac ischemia lower than in men.

Predisposing factors of atherosclerosis and cardiac ischemia are modifiable. This means that with timely elimination of their effects is possible to reduce the risk of ischemia.

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Signs of cardiac ischemia

Insufficient circulation and nutrition of the heart has the characteristic symptoms which include:

  • Angina («angina pectoris») – the appearance of the characteristic oppressive pain in the heart (chest area behind the breastbone) that radiates to the left arm, shoulder girdle and neck. Angina usually appears after physical or emotional stress. With a significant reduction of blood flow in the heart of the pain can be present almost constantly. This is an alarming sign, indicating the possible development of heart attack.
  • Arrhythmia – a violation of the rhythm and frequency of contractions of the heart caused by insufficient nutrition of the nerve node responsible for the generation of cardiac impulses. This condition is usually manifested by a feeling of paralysis in the region of the heart or palpitations.
  • Shortness of breath is felt as shortness of breath, increased after load and is a result of the deterioration of the General circulation due to the reduction of contractile ability of the myocardium to ischemia.
  • General weakness of man, reduced endurance and tolerance to physical loads.

These manifestations ischemia of the heart may gradually increase as the deterioration of blood flow in the tissues of the heart. The basis of diagnostics of this pathological state is performing ECG (electrocardiogram).

How to treat heart disease?

Adequate treatment of circulatory disorders in the tissues of the heart involves complex therapeutic interventions:

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  • Implementation of dietary recommendations during cardiac ischemia, it is important to limit the intake of food that contain a significant amount of cholesterol (fatty meat, eggs). In the diet should increase the consumption of plant foods.
  • Modification of lifestyle is an event aimed at moderate and gradual increase of physical activity, adequate sleep and avoiding harmful habits.
  • Medical therapy includes drugs of different pharmacological groups, the most frequently used tablets, expanding coronary vessels (Nitroglycerine and analogs), antiplatelet agents (prevention of intravascular thrombosis in the region of an atherosclerotic plaque), antihypertensive drugs (decrease blood pressure level that will reduce the load on the heart).
  • Surgical treatment – perform surgery on the heart to restore the diameter of the lumen of the affected coronary vessels (balloon angioplasty, coronary artery bypass grafting).
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An effective fight against heart disease is a healthy lifestyle, this will significantly reduce the likelihood of increasing the level of cholesterol in the blood and its deposition in the blood vessels of the heart.