Silent Ischemia and Ischemic Heart Disease

What is ischemia?

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

What is ischemic heart disease?

It's heart problems caused by narrowed heart arteries. When arteries are narrowed, less blood and oxygen reach the heart muscle. This is also called coronary artery disease and coronary heart disease. This can lead to heart attack.

Ischemia often causes chest pain or discomfort known as angina pectoris.

View an illustration of angina.

What is silent ischemia?

Many people have ischemic episodes without knowing it or having pain — silent ischemia. They may have a heart attack with no warning. People with angina also may have undiagnosed episodes of silent ischemia. People who have had previous heart attacks or those with diabetes are also at high risk for developing silent ischemia.

An exercise stress test or Holter monitor (a battery-operated portable tape recording that measures and records your electrocardiogram (ECG) continuously, usually for 24-48 hours) can often diagnose this problem. Other tests also may be used.

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