Understanding Ischemic Heart Disease – Symptoms, Diagnosis & Treatment
October 8, 2021
Ischemic Heart Disease- An Introduction
Ischemic Heart Disease, which is also known as coronary artery disease, is an ailment characterised by recurring chest pain or discomfort. It occurs when a part of the heart does not receive enough blood. When a person is excited or strained, the heart requires greater blood flow and this condition is most likely to occur.
Ischemic heart disease develops when cholesterol particles in the blood begin to accumulate on the walls of the arteries that supply blood to the heart. Ultimately, deposits called plaques may form in the arteries. These deposits narrow the arteries and block the flow of blood. Due to the decrease in the blood flow, the amount of oxygen supplied to the heart muscle gets reduced.
Symptoms of Ischemic Heart Disease
- Chest Pain (Angina)
The word ‘angina’ means ‘strangling’ . The person may feel pressure or tightness in the chest, which could feel similar to strangulation . This pain or tightness usually occurs on the middle or left side of the chest. Angina is generally triggered by physical or emotional stress. The pain usually goes away within minutes after the stressful activity is stopped. In some people, especially women, the pain may be brief, sharp and felt in the neck, arm or back.
- Shortness of breath
Shortness of breath happens when a person cannot get enough air into the lungs. The person could struggle to draw a full breath. It might feel like they have just run a sprint or climbed several flights of stairs.
- Heart attack
A completely blocked coronary artery can cause a heart attack. The symptoms of a heart attack (myocardial infarction) are similar to angina. Yet, they are not the same. While angina is caused by a drop in blood supply to the heart, a heart attack happens when there is a sudden lack of blood supply to the heart muscle. This blockage is often due to the buildup of plaque in the artery. Heart attack is often accompanied by sweating, fatigue, dizziness, nausea and vomiting.
How is Ischemic Heart Disease diagnosed?
Treatment for Ischemic heart disease begins with seeking medical care from the healthcare provider. To determine whether or not a person has ischemic heart disease, the health care provider will ask them to undergo several diagnostic tests.
- Electrocardiogram (ECG) – An electrocardiogram records electrical signals as they travel through the heart. An ECG can often reveal evidence of a previous heart attack or one that’s in progress.
- Echocardiogram – An echocardiogram uses sound waves to produce images of the heart. During an echocardiogram, the doctor can determine whether all parts of the heart wall are contributing well to the heart’s pumping activity. Parts of the heart’s function may have been damaged during a heart attack or parts of the heart might be receiving too little oxygen. This may be a sign of coronary artery disease (Ischemic Heart Disease).
- Exercise stress test. If the signs and symptoms occur most often during exercise, doctors may ask the patients to walk on a treadmill or ride a stationary bike during an ECG. Sometimes, an echocardiogram is also done while the patient exercises. This is called a ‘Stress Echo Test’. In some cases, medication could be used to stimulate the heart instead of exercises.
- Nuclear stress test.This test is similar to an exercise stress test but adds images to the ECG recordings. It measures blood flow to the heart muscle at rest and during stress. A tracer is injected into the bloodstream, and special cameras are used to detect areas that are provided with less blood flow.
- Cardiac catheterization and angiogram. During cardiac catheterization, a doctor gently inserts a catheter into an artery or vein in the groin, neck or arm and up to the heart. X-rays are used to guide the catheter to the correct position. Sometimes, a dye is injected through the catheter. The dye helps blood vessels show up better on the images and outlines any blockages.
- Cardiac CT scan – A computerized tomography (CT) scan of the heart can help the specialist see calcium deposits in the arteries that can limit the arteries. If a significant amount of calcium is discovered, Ischemic heart disease might be probable. In a CT Coronary Angiogram, the patient receives a contrast dye, given by IV during a CT check. This allows detailed pictures of the heart arteries to be captured.
Treatment for Ischemic Heart Disease
Surgical procedures that are used to treat Ischemic Heart Disease :
- Angioplasty and stent placement – Angioplasty and stent placement is a procedure to remove plaque and restore blood flow in clogged arteries.
- Coronary artery bypass graft – The coronary artery bypass graft is a procedure that helps restore blood flow to the heart by routing the flow through transplanted arteries.
Doctors are also studying new ways to treat heart disease which includes:
- Enhanced External Counterpulsation
The patients will get stem cells and other genetic material through vein or directly into the damaged heart tissue. It helps new blood vessels to grow and go around the clogged ones.
Enhanced External Counterpulsation (EECP)
An outpatient procedure which involves gently but firmly compressing the blood vessels in the lower limbs to increase blood flow to the coronary arteries. Long inflatable cuffs wrapped around the patient’s legs. The inflation and deflation are synchronised to each heartbeat.
What can a patient do to manage Ischemic Heart Disease?
- Keeping the blood pressure, cholesterol and blood sugar levels in check
- Cutting back on alcohol
- Quitting the use of tobacco products
- Managing the stress
- Practicing regular physical activity
Coronary heart disease (Ischemic Heart Disease) cannot be cured but treatment can help manage the symptoms and reduce the chances of medical emergencies such as a heart attack.