Myocardial ischemia is a lack of blood flow getting to your heart muscle. That means your heart muscle isn’t getting enough blood to do what it needs to do. Often, the cause is a collection of fat and cholesterol (plaque) that doesn’t let enough blood go through your coronary arteries. Medicines and surgeries can treat myocardial ischemia.
Myocardial ischemia (or cardiac ischemia) means your heart muscle is not getting enough blood (which contains oxygen and nutrients) to work as it should. If this lack of blood from your coronary arteries is severe or goes on for more than a few minutes, it can damage your heart muscle. Then it becomes a myocardial infarction (heart attack).
A heart attack is an emergency. You should call 911 for an ambulance instead of having someone drive you to the hospital.
People who get myocardial ischemia often have:
Each year, more than 1 million people in the United States die from myocardial infarction (heart attack). This is due to myocardial ischemia, a lack of blood flow and oxygen to your heart muscle.
Myocardial ischemia makes it difficult to exercise, especially in the cold. As your condition gets worse, you can have symptoms of myocardial ischemia with less and less activity. In time, it can be hard to go up a flight of stairs. Eventually, you can even have symptoms when you’re at rest.
The most common symptom of myocardial ischemia is angina (also called angina pectoris). This is chest pain (similar to indigestion or heartburn) that feels like:
There are two types of angina:
Other myocardial ischemia symptoms can also include:
If you have angina or any of the symptoms of ischemia listed above that last for more than five minutes, call 911 right away.
It’s possible to have ischemia ─ or even a heart attack ─ and not have any warning signs. This is called silent myocardial ischemia. This is most common in people with diabetes, but it can happen to anyone with heart disease.
Often, a person has more than one cause of myocardial ischemia.
Causes of myocardial ischemia include:
Ischemia is most likely to happen when your heart needs more oxygen and nutrients than it’s getting. It happens when your heart can’t keep up with your body’s increased demand for blood.
Your body needs more blood when you’re:
In addition to getting your medical history and doing a physical exam, your healthcare provider may do the following tests:
Your provider may also do blood tests to check for:
Myocardial ischemia treatments may include medications or procedures to improve blood flow to your heart muscle. Your treatment for myocardial ischemia depends on the cause of the problem. Your healthcare provider will talk to you about the treatment that’s best for you.
Medicines or treatments for myocardial ischemia may include:
Complications of coronary artery bypass graft may include:
Rarely, some of these complications can happen with angioplasty/ stent placement as well.
After a coronary artery bypass graft, you’ll need to spend about a week in the hospital. After that, you’ll need six to 12 weeks to recover at home.
After angioplasty or stent placement, you’ll probably spend the night in the hospital and go home the next day.
Your healthcare provider may recommend medications or lifestyle changes to reduce your risk of myocardial ischemia.
It’s common for people with unstable angina to have a heart attack in the next three months. Heart attacks are fatal in the first few hours for up to a third of people who have them.
Most people who get through the first few days after a heart attack recover completely. However, 10% live less than a year after their heart attack.
Angina from myocardial ischemia lasts 10 minutes or less in most cases.
Exercise is very helpful for improving your cardiovascular health. It gets more oxygen to your heart muscle, which helps with symptoms. Healthcare providers recommend getting at least 30 to 60 minutes of exercise five or more days a week.
Other ways to stay healthy include:
Contact your healthcare provider if your medicines aren’t helping you or if the side effects are severe. If you’ve had an angioplasty and stent placement or coronary artery bypass graft, you’ll most likely need to see your provider every six months during the first year after your procedure.
Call 911 and chew an aspirin if you think you’re having a heart attack. If you have a clot in your coronary artery, aspirin can help make it smaller.
You should also get help immediately if you’ve taken three nitroglycerin doses (one every five minutes) and still have angina.
No. Angina (chest pain) is a very common symptom of myocardial ischemia.
No. Myocardial ischemia is a lack of blood supply to your heart muscle. A stroke affects your brain.
It depends on many factors, such as:
A note from Cleveland Clinic
Chest pain from myocardial ischemia is understandably a cause for concern, but a diagnosis and treatment plan can give you peace of mind. Following your healthcare provider’s recommendations will give you the best chance of improving your heart health. Although you may not want to think about it, it’s a good idea to know the warning signs of a heart attack. Having a plan in place in case that happens will help you be prepared to help yourself or a loved one.
Last reviewed by a Cleveland Clinic medical professional on 05/27/2022.
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