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Also known as Coronary Artery Disease, is a condition that affects the supply of blood to the heart. The blood vessels are narrowed or blocked due to the deposition of cholesterol plaques on their walls. This reduces the supply of oxygen and nutrients to the heart musculature, which is essential for proper functioning of the heart. This may eventually result in a portion of the heart being suddenly deprived of its blood supply leading to the death of that area of heart tissue, resulting in a heart attack.
As the heart is the pump that supplies oxygenated blood to the various vital organs, any defect in the heart immediately affects the supply of oxygen to the vital organs like the brain, kidneys etc. This leads to the death of tissue within these organs and their eventual failure or death. Ischaemic Heart Disease is the most common cause of death in several countries around the world.
Persons most commonly affected: Adults of bothe sexes, but males and post-menopausal women are more prone to IHD
Organ or part of body involved: Heart, kidneys and brain.
Symptoms and indications: Quite often, the first sign of Ischaemic Heart Disease may be the severe chest pain of Myocardial Infarction, which may be fatal. However, the warning symptoms occur in a large number of patients in the form of Angina Pectoris. The main symptom of Angina is pain over the central chest that may sometimes radiate down the left arm, to the jaw or to the back. The characteristic feature of the pain is that it is usually aggravated by exercise and relieved by rest, though variant forms may occur. The pain is also relieved by the use of nitrates kept under the tongue. The pain is usually described as a sense of compression or tightness in the middle of the chest, and may last for five to twenty minutes. The pain may be accompanied by sweating. The presence of anginal episodes is virtually diagnostic of IHD.
Causes and risk factors: A multitude of factors are responsible for the development of IHD. The major risk factors are smoking, diabetes mellitusand cholesterol levels. Those with Hypercholesterolaemia (elevated blood levels of cholesterol) have a much higher tendency to develop the disease. There is also the theory that Hypertension is a risk factor in the development of IHD, Genetic and hereditary factors may also be responsible for the disease. Males are more prone to IHD. However, in post-menopausal women, the risk is almost similar to that of men. Stress is also thought to be a risk factor, though there has been a great deal of debate on this factor of late. The disease process occurs when an atheromatous plaque forms in the coronary vessels, leading to narrowing of the vessel walls and obstructing blood flow to the musculature of the heart. Complete blockage results in deficient oxygenation and nutrient supply to the heart tissues, leading to damage, death and necrosis of the tissue, which is known as Myocardial Infarction (heart attack).
Prevention: Risk factors like a fatty diet, smoking, sedentary lifestyle and stress should be avoided, as they are the main areas of focus in prevention. Avoiding foods rich in saturated fats is vital to reduce lipid levels in the blood and to prevent arteriosclerosis. Adequate regular exercise is also essential. Diabetes Mellitus and hypertension should be kept under good control with proper treatment.