What is ischemia? Causes of myocardial ischemia and risk factors.

What is ischemia? Food, water, exercise, sleep: your body needs many different things to survive. One of these occurs every time you breathe. Every breath draws oxygen from your blood into your lungs. It then travels through your body through your blood vessels and arteries.

Some of these blood vessels are large, like streets. Others are small, like narrow alleys. But if anyone stops blood flow, you have a serious problem called ischemia. This means that part of your body isn’t getting enough blood, so it can’t get enough oxygen. It can occur in your brain, legs, and almost anywhere on the body.

Ischemia can occur due to a buildup or blockage in your veins. How it feels and how it affects you depends on where your ischemia originates. Ischemia can also lead to serious life-threatening problems such as heart attack or stroke.

What is ischemia?

Ischemia is a condition in which blood flow (and therefore oxygen) is restricted or decreased in a part of the body. Cardiac ischemia is the decrease in blood flow and oxygen to the heart muscle.

What is ischemic heart disease?

It is the term given to heart problems caused by narrowed heart arteries. When the arteries narrow, less blood and oxygen reach the heart muscle. This is also called coronary artery disease and coronary heart disease. This can ultimately lead to a heart attack.

Ischemia often causes a condition known as chest pain or angina pectoris.

What is silent ischemia?

Many Americans may have ischemic attacks without realizing it. These people have painless ischemia – silent ischemia. They can have a heart attack without prior warning. Angina patients may also have undiagnosed silent episodes of ischemia. Additionally, people who have had a previous heart attack or have diabetes are particularly at risk of developing silent ischemia.

Taking an exercise stress test or wearing a Holter monitor – a battery-powered portable tape recording that measures and records your electrocardiogram (ECG) continuously, usually for 24-48 hours – are two tests commonly used to diagnose this problem. Other tests can also be used.

What is ischemia? Causes of myocardial ischemia and risk factors.

What causes ischemia?

One of the main causes of ischemia is atherosclerosis. Plaques may accumulate in your veins. Plaque is a hard, sticky substance that consists mostly of oil. It develops slowly and this development can take years. That’s why we don’t even know where it is at first. However, over time, it can harden and narrow your arteries. This slows your blood flow because there is less room for movement in your blood. When pipes like old plumbing in the house are clogged, the water gradually drains and can suddenly clog.

You may also have ischemia due to a blood clot. The registration itself is a problem. However, sometimes the blockage may open and form a clot. This causes a sudden and serious stop in your blood flow. A clot fragment can sometimes rupture and cause problems elsewhere in the body.

What problems does ischemia cause?

Some vascular blockages can be life-threatening depending on where they occur. For example:

  • Heart: Ischemia in the heart vessels can lead to heart attack, irregular heartbeat, and heart failure. It can also cause chest pain (angina) or sudden death. You may also hear these referred to as ischemic heart disease, myocardial ischemia, or cardiac ischemia.
  • Brain: Ischemia in the brain vessels can cause paralysis.
  • Legs: Doctors call this “critical limb ischemia.” Peripheral artery disease (PAD) is a serious condition you may encounter. This is a condition where plaque builds up in the arteries of your leg. It causes intense pain even at rest. If not treated, you could lose your leg.
  • Intestines: This is also called mesenteric ischemia. It can cause death in your gut or part of your intestines. It can occur in both the small and large intestines.

Ischemia in blood vessels may not always be asymptomatic. Some people may have silent ischemia of the heart or brain. It can lead to a sudden heart attack or stroke. If you do experience certain symptoms, these will vary depending on where you have ischemia. If you think these symptoms are also related to ischemia, seek immediate medical attention.

Ischemia that can occur in various parts of the body is given below.

What is ischemia? Causes of myocardial ischemia and risk factors.

Myocardial ischemia

Myocardial ischemia occurs when blood flow to your heart decreases and prevents the heart muscle from getting enough oxygen. The decrease in blood flow is often the result of partial or complete blockage of your heart’s arteries (coronary arteries).

Myocardial ischemia, also known as cardiac ischemia, can reduce the heart’s ability to pump blood. A sudden and severe blockage of one of the heart’s arteries can lead to a heart attack.

The primary treatment for myocardial ischemia is to improve blood flow to the heart muscle. Medications, angioplasty or bypass surgery are treatment options.

Making heart-healthy lifestyle choices is important in the treatment and prevention of myocardial ischemia.

Ischemia symptoms

Some people with myocardial ischemia may not have any signs or symptoms (silent ischemia).

When these occur, the most common is chest pressure or pain, usually on the left side of the body (angina pectoris). Other signs and symptoms more common by women, the elderly, and those with diabetes include:

  • Neck or jaw pain
  • Pain in the shoulder or arm
  • Rapid heartbeats
  • Shortness of breath when you are physically active
  • Nausea and vomiting
  • Excessive sweating
  • Tiredness

Causes of myocardial ischemia

Myocardial ischemia occurs when blood flow from one or more coronary arteries is reduced. Low blood flow reduces the amount of oxygen your heart muscle receives. Myocardial ischemia can develop slowly as the arteries become blocked over time, or occur rapidly when an artery becomes suddenly blocked.

Conditions that can cause myocardial ischemia to include:

  • Coronary artery disease (atherosclerosis): Plaques, mostly made of cholesterol, build upon your artery walls, and restrict blood flow. Atherosclerosis is the most common cause of myocardial ischemia.
  • Blood clot: Plaques that develop in atherosclerosis can burst and cause blood clots. The clot can block an artery and lead to sudden, severe myocardial ischemia. This can cause a heart attack. Rarely, a blood clot can travel to the coronary artery from elsewhere in the body.
  • Coronary artery spasm: Temporary tightening of the muscles in the artery wall can reduce or even block blood flow to part of the heart muscle. Coronary artery spasm is a rare cause of myocardial ischemia.

Chest pain associated with myocardial ischemia can be triggered by:

  • Physical effort
  • Emotional stress
  • Cold temperatures
  • Cocaine use
  • Eating a heavy or large meal
  • Sexual intercourse

Risk factors

Tobacco: Smoking and prolonged exposure to passive smoke can damage the inner walls of the arteries. The damage can cause cholesterol and other substances to accumulate in the coronary arteries and slow blood flow. Smoking causes spasms of the coronary arteries and can also increase the risk of blood clots.

Diabetes: Type 1 and Type 2 diabetes are linked to an increased risk of myocardial ischemia, heart attack, and other heart problems.

High blood pressure: Over time, high blood pressure can accelerate atherosclerosis, which can damage coronary arteries.

High blood cholesterol level: Cholesterol is an important part of the formation that can narrow your coronary arteries. High levels of “bad” (low-density lipoprotein or LDL) cholesterol in your blood can develop due to an inherited condition or a diet high in saturated fat and cholesterol.

High blood triglyceride level: Triglycerides, another type of blood fat, can also contribute to atherosclerosis.

Obesity: Obesity is associated with diabetes, high blood pressure, and high blood cholesterol levels.

Lack of physical activity: Not getting enough exercise contributes to obesity and is linked to higher cholesterol and triglyceride levels. Regular aerobic exercise is associated with a lower risk of myocardial ischemia and heart attack, and people who exercise regularly have better heart health. Exercise also lowers blood pressure.

Ischemic stroke occurs when a blood clot blocks or narrows an artery leading to the brain. A blood clot usually forms in arteries damaged by plaque buildup (atherosclerosis). It can occur in the carotid artery of the neck and other arteries.


  • A hard and rapid headache, sometimes with dizziness or vomiting
  • Blackout
  • Problems moving your body (weakness, numbness, or inability to move your face, arm or leg to one side of your body)
  • Speech impairment and difficulty understanding others

Ischemia in the legs

It occurs when a blood clot causes ischemia in the leg veins.


  • Cold and weakness in your legs
  • Pain in your feet
  • Severe pain in your legs even at rest
  • Wounds that do not heal
What is ischemia? Causes of myocardial ischemia and risk factors.

Masenteric (intestinal) ischemia

Mesenteric ischemia, commonly referred to as bowel or bowel ischemia, has very high mortality in the intestine and its mesentery if not treated appropriately in the acute setting.

If the ischemia is severe enough and does not heal quickly, a predictable sequence of events is usually observed:

  • Necrosis of the intestinal wall
  • Bacterial proliferation in the intestinal wall
  • The gas passes through the mesenteric vessels to the portal vein (pneumatosis portals)
  • Sepsis and/or bowel perforation
  • Death

The symptoms

  • Severe abdominal pain
  • Swelling
  • Blood in the stool
  • Diarrhea
  • The immediate feeling of stool

Can I prevent ischemia from occurring?

You can help reduce the risk of ischemic heart disease by making healthy lifestyle choices. These:

  • Eating more fruits, vegetables, and whole grains
  • Exercising often
  • Reducing stress (try deep breathing, meditation, or yoga)
  • Quitting smoking
  • Dealing with your other health problems, such as diabetes, high blood pressure, and high cholesterol
  • It is also helpful to see your doctor for regular check-ups. It can control problems such as high blood pressure, high cholesterol, and diabetes. This can help catch problems early, even if you don’t have symptoms.

The page content is for informational purposes only. Items containing information about therapeutic healthcare services are not included in the content of the page. Consult your physician for diagnosis and treatment.

Frequently Asked Question

What if you have ischemic heart disease?
Myocardial ischemic, also called cardiac ischemia, reduces the heart muscle’s ability to pump blood. A sudden and severe blockage of one of the heart arteries can cause a heart attack. Myocardial ischemic can also cause severe abnormal heart rhythms.

What is ischemic heart disease and what causes it?
Ischemia is caused by decreased blood flow to a tissue or organ. Blood flow can be blocked by a clot, embolism, or narrowing of an artery. It can occur due to the gradual thickening of the artery wall and narrowing of the artery, as in atherosclerosis. Trauma can also impair blood flow.

How is ischemia diagnosed?
The following tests can be used to diagnose silent ischemic heart disease
An exercise stress test can show blood flow through your coronary arteries in response to exercise.
Holter monitoring records your heart rate and rhythm over a 24-hour period (or longer) so doctors can see if you’re having silent ischemia attacks.

Can stress cause ischemic heart disease?
There is a medical term for this: myocardial ischemia due to mental stress, or mental stress ischemia for short. Emotional and mental stress works the same as insufficient blood flow caused by physical stress, and perhaps the same possibility of triggering a heart attack.

How does ischemic pain feel?
What are the symptoms of myocardial ischemia? The most common symptom of myocardial ischemia is angina (also called angina pectoris). Angina is chest pain, also defined as chest discomfort, heaviness, tension, pressure, pain, burning, numbness, fullness, or tightness. It may feel like indigestion or heartburn.

How long can you live with ischemic heart disease?
Approximately 20 years of life are free from heart disease and 6.7 of those who had a heart attack, 2.4 out of those who had a heart attack, and 4.3 of those who had heart disease but did not have a heart attack. 50-year-old women, on average, are 31 years old, and about 23 are women without heart disease.

Can ischemic heart disease be cured?
There is no cure for coronary heart disease (CHD). However, if you have CHD, there are a number of treatments your doctor may recommend to reduce the risk of future heart problems and to alleviate or manage symptoms.

How do you treat ischemic heart disease naturally?
Lifestyle and home remedies

  • Quitting smoking. Talk to your doctor about smoking cessation strategies. …
  • Manage underlying health conditions. …
  • Eat a healthy diet. …
  • To exercise. …
  • Maintain your healthy weight. …
  • Reduce stress.

What is the main cause of ischemic heart disease?
Therefore, ischemic heart disease is most common in people with atherosclerosis (plaque buildup in the coronary artery walls), blood clots, coronary artery spasm, or serious illnesses that increase the heart’s oxygen demand.

How can you prevent ischemic heart disease?
There are several ways to reduce your risk of developing coronary heart disease (CHD), such as

  • lowering your blood pressure and cholesterol levels.
  • Eat a healthy and balanced diet. …
  • Be more physically active. …
  • Maintain a healthy weight. …
  • Quitting smoking. …
  • Reduce your alcohol
  • consumption. …
  • Keep your blood pressure in check.

How do you stop a heart attack in 30 seconds?
Take an aspirin. Chew an uncoated 325-milligram aspirin (not infant aspirin). It may not stop the heart attack, but it can reduce the damage by thinning the blood and breaking down clots. If you have a prescription, take nitroglycerin for chest pain.

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