Ischaemic Heart Disease
Ischaemic heart disease, also known as coronary artery disease, occurs when one or more of the major arteries that supply the heart (called coronary arteries) become significantly blocked, to the extent that the oxygen demand of the heart muscle cannot be met, due to the reduced blood flow through the coronary arteries. The blood is responsible for delivering oxygen and other nutrients to all organs in the body. The heart muscle needs oxygen to pump properly and requires a constant blood supply. Reduced blood flow to the heart muscle may cause chest pain (angina). If the blood flow to the heart muscle is reduced significantly or is completely blocked, a heart attack can occur.
The most common symptom of ischaemic heart disease is the feeling of pressure or pain in the chest, often on the left side of the body. Other symptoms that may be experienced include:
Not all patients who have ischaemic heart disease will experience symptoms, this is called silent ischaemia.
Ischaemic heart disease usually take many years to develop, as the arteries are slowly blocked over time through the build up of plaque deposits. There are also cases where the disease can develop quickly, for example due to smoking and increased cholesterol. In some instances, the artery becomes suddenly blocked due to the artery tearing (called dissection), or when a soft cholesterol plaque ruptures (eg during extreme exertion) and exposes a surface which blood cells, called “platelets” try to “repair” by building up on the exposed surface to cover it (similar to when you have a skin bleed). In some instances, the platelet build up blocks off the artery very quickly, so that no blood can go through beyond the plaque. This can then cause a heart attack, and can cause permanent heart muscle damage if the blockage is not opened up soon.
The main cause of ischaemic heart disease is Atherosclerosis. This is the build up of plaque deposits that are made mostly of cholesterol. As the plaque continues to thicken on the artery walls, the blood flow to the heart is restricted.
The symptoms associated with ischaemic heart disease can be triggered by:
What are the risk factors associated with IHD?
Certain lifestyle factors and medical conditions can increase your risk of developing ischaemic heart disease.
Diagnosing Ischaemic Heart Disease
When you attend your appointment, we will ask you many questions about your lifestyle, your medical history and your family history. Using this information, and the symptoms that you have experienced, we may recommend:
Prevention and Treatment
Leading a healthy, active lifestyle is the best way to prevent ischaemic heart disease from developing, and reducing the risk factors above helps to treat the condition too. When treating ischaemic heart disease, we aim to improve blood flow to the heart muscle. This can be done using either medication, surgery, or both. The treatment pathway will depend on the severity of your condition.
The procedures used to improve blood flow include: