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What Is Ischemic Heart Disease?

Learn about ischemic heart disease from Dr. Dennis Finkielstein in this Howcast video.


So, what is ischemic heart disease? I think the first thing to mention is that ischemic heart disease is very common in the United States. At its very core, it really refers to the buildup of atherosclerotic plaque in the arteries of the heart, the so called "coronary" arteries. The buildup of atherosclerotic plaque involves many complicated mechanisms in the body. But for the most part it's a delivery of cholesterol into the wall of the arteries which leads to a reduction in the size of the lumen, or center, of the artery where the blood flows. When this occurs, this can lead to chest pain we call "angina" or heart attack. So the buildup of atherosclerotic plaque is one basic mechanism of ischemic heart disease.

There are a lot of other important things at play, such as inflammation and many other various biochemical markers. If we want to use a simple analogy, it would be clogged plumbing in the house. And unfortunately, it's not so simple to unclog the plumbing and restore the flow. But the good news is that there's a lot of treatments for ischemic heart disease and ways to reduce your risk. It involves healthy choices with diet and exercise, seeing your doctor regularly, and controlling things like high blood pressure, high cholesterol, and smoking. And in brief, that's what most of us mean when we mention ischemic heart disease.

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