Myocardial ischemia reduces blood flow to the heart and may cause chest pain – but not always. Learn all the signs and symptoms and how to treat it.
Myocardial ischemia occurs when blood flow to your heart is reduced, preventing the heart muscle from receiving enough oxygen. The reduced blood flow is usually the result of a partial or complete blockage of your heart's arteries (coronary arteries).
Myocardial ischemia, also called cardiac ischemia, reduces the heart muscle's ability to pump blood. A sudden, severe blockage of one of the heart's artery can lead to a heart attack. Myocardial ischemia might also cause serious abnormal heart rhythms.
Treatment for myocardial ischemia involves improving blood flow to the heart muscle. Treatment may include medications, a procedure to open blocked arteries (angioplasty) or bypass surgery.
Making heart-healthy lifestyle choices is important in treating and preventing myocardial ischemia.
Myocardial ischemia occurs when blood flow to the heart muscle (myocardium) is obstructed by a partial or complete blockage of a coronary artery by a buildup of plaques (atherosclerosis). If the plaques rupture, you can have a heart attack (myocardial infarction).
Some people who have myocardial ischemia don't have any signs or symptoms (silent ischemia).
When they do occur, the most common is chest pressure or pain, typically on the left side of the body (angina pectoris). Other signs and symptoms — which might be experienced more commonly by women, older people and people with diabetes — include:
Get emergency help if you have severe chest pain or chest pain that doesn't go away.
Myocardial ischemia occurs when the blood flow through one or more of your coronary arteries is decreased. The low blood flow decreases the amount of oxygen your heart muscle receives.
Myocardial ischemia can develop slowly as arteries become blocked over time. Or it can occur quickly when an artery becomes blocked suddenly.
Conditions that can cause myocardial ischemia include:
Chest pain associated with myocardial ischemia can be triggered by:
If there's too much cholesterol in the blood, the cholesterol and other substances may form deposits (plaques) that collect on artery walls. Plaques can cause an artery to become narrowed or blocked. If a plaque ruptures, a blood clot can form. Plaques and blood clots can reduce blood flow through an artery.
Factors that can increase your risk of developing myocardial ischemia include:
Myocardial ischemia can lead to serious complications, including:
The same lifestyle habits that can help treat myocardial ischemia can also help prevent it from developing in the first place. Leading a heart-healthy lifestyle can help keep your arteries strong, elastic and smooth, and allow for maximum blood flow.
Your doctor will start by asking questions about your medical history and with a physical exam. After that, your doctor might recommend:
The goal of myocardial ischemia treatment is to improve blood flow to the heart muscle. Depending on the severity of your condition, your doctor may recommend medications, surgery or both.
Medications to treat myocardial ischemia include:
Sometimes, more-aggressive treatment is needed to improve blood flow. Procedures that may help include:
Lifestyle changes are an important part of treatment. To follow a heart-healthy lifestyle:
It's important to have regular medical checkups. Some of the main risk factors for myocardial ischemia — high cholesterol, high blood pressure and diabetes — have no symptoms in the early stages. Early detection and treatment can set the stage for a lifetime of better heart health.
If you are experiencing chest pain, you likely will be examined and treated in the emergency room.
If you don't have chest pain but are having other symptoms, or are concerned about your risk of myocardial ischemia, you might be referred to a heart specialist (cardiologist).
In addition to the questions that you've prepared to ask your doctor, don't hesitate to ask other questions during your appointment.
Your doctor is likely to ask you a number of questions. Being ready to answer them may leave time to go over points you want to spend more time on. You may be asked: