Learn the Causes of Ischemic Heart Disease: In-Depth Insights

Medically Reviewed by Dr. Aman Priya Khanna
Written by Sparshi Srivastava, last updated on 20 November 2023
Learn the Causes of Ischemic Heart Disease: In-Depth Insights

Global health data highlight the widespread effect of ischaemic heart disease causes, by indicating that it leads to significant heart-related fatalities. According to a study by Moien AB Khan et al. in 2020, approximately 126 million people worldwide are affected with ischaemic heart disease.

Are you wondering what causes ischaemic heart disease? You've found it! This blog explores the main causes of ischaemic heart disease in detail. Let's be sure we know exactly what ischaemic heart disease is before we get started.

What is Ischaemic Heart Disease?

Ischaemic heart disease is a leading supporter of the global burden of cardiovascular diseases and a leading cause of morbidity worldwide. Ischaemia is the scientific name for insufficient blood flow to a specific area due to obstruction in one or more coronary arteries. 

Ischaemic disorders are also known as coronary artery disease (CAD), coronary heart disease (CHD), or ischaemic heart disease. Low blood and oxygen levels impact the heart. The most prevalent cause of cardiovascular narrowing (atherosclerosis) is plaque formation. However, it can also be due to blood clots or constricted vessels. The narrowing of the blood vessels is also associated with persistent chest pain (angina), a common indication of cardiac issues.

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Causes of Ischaemic Heart Disease

The decreased blood flow reduces the amount of oxygen that reaches the heart muscle. Although the progression is slow, it can lead to severe health complexities. Alternatively, it could happen fast if an artery suddenly becomes clogged. So, if you are wondering what is the main cause of ischaemic heart disease, it includes the following:

  1. Smoking: Tobacco contains chemicals that thicken the blood and form clots inside the blood vessels. These can block the coronary artery, leading to ischaemic heart disease.
  2. Obesity: Excess body weight can result in type 2 diabetes and high blood pressure. This can increase the risk of heart disease. 
  3. High Blood Pressure (Hypertension): Increased blood pressure can harden the arteries. Subsequently narrowing the coronary arteries and slowing down the blood flow. 
  4. High Cholesterol Level: Elevated low-density lipoprotein (LDL or "bad" cholesterol) and decreased high-density lipoprotein (HDL or “good” cholesterol) pose a cardiac threat. These can lead to the buildup of plaques in the arteries.
  5. Atherosclerosis: Caused by plaque (composed of cholesterol) buildup on arterial walls. It is the main reason for myocardial ischaemia due to narrowing arteries and obstructed blood flow. 
  6. Clotting: Due to the plaque rupture, patients can experience blood clot formation in the body. These can block an artery and cause abrupt, acute myocardial ischaemia. Although rare, a blood clot from another body part may migrate to the coronary artery.
  7. Angina Pectoris Spasm: Part of the heart muscle may experience a momentary reduction or complete restriction in blood flow due to transient contraction of the arterial wall muscles.

Prevention of Ischaemic Heart Disease

Preventing ischaemic heart disease involves adopting a heart-healthy lifestyle and managing risk factors. Here are key strategies for prevention:

  1. Quit Smoking: Tobacco is a major contributor to heart disease. Quitting it can have immediate and long-term health benefits.
  2. Physiological Management: High levels of bad cholesterol, blood pressure and sugar can increase the risk of heart disease. It is essential to monitor these and keep them within a healthy range regularly. 
  3. Eat a Healthy Diet: Consume a nutritious diet rich in fruits, vegetables, and whole grains. Limit the salt intake to regulate the blood pressure. Moreover, avoid foods with saturated fats like butter, cream, cakes, biscuits, etc. Why? Because it can increase bad cholesterol levels in the blood.  
  4. Regular Physical Activity: Engaging in regular exercise enhances the efficiency of your heart and circulatory system. It reduces cholesterol levels and helps maintain healthy blood pressure. This reduces the risk of heart disease.

Treatment for Ischaemia Heart Disease

Ischaemic heart disease (IHD) is treated using a multimodal strategy that aims to improve overall cardiac health, avoid complications, and relieve symptoms. Treatment modalities might consist of:


Certain medications can reduce chest pain and address other conditions contributing to coronary heart disease. These may include:

  1. Angiotensin-converting Enzyme (ACE) Inhibitors and Beta-Blockers: These drugs lower blood pressure. 
  2. Calcium Channel Blockers: To lower blood pressure and relax the blood vessels.
  3. Nitrates: Nitroglycerin or other nitrates can relieve chest pain by dilating coronary arteries.
  4. Statins: Drugs that decrease cholesterol levels.


Heart surgical procedures may be used to treat more chronic ischaemic heart disease. Some approaches include: 

  1. Percutaneous Coronary Intervention (PCI): A catheter opens the coronary arteries narrowed or blocked by plaque buildup. A stent may be placed to prevent the artery from contracting again.
  2. Coronary Artery Bypass Grafting (CABG): Healthy blood vessels bypass the blocked arteries, improving blood flow to the heart. It is performed for people with severe ischaemic heart disease in multiple coronary arteries. 
  3. Coronary Endarterectomy: Addresses severe angina associated with coronary heart disease when alternative treatments are risky or ineffective.


Ischaemic heart disease is a primary worldwide health concern that results from insufficient blood flow caused by constricted or clogged coronary arteries. Providing a prompt diagnosis and holistic treatment strategy, including non-invasive or surgical techniques, is critical. 

To understand the causes of ischaemic heart disease, contact the HexaHealth team. Their specialists offer easy access to individualised treatment plans, medical consultations, and a network of highly respected healthcare providers.

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Frequently Asked Questions

What is ischaemic heart disease?

Narrowed arteries lead to insufficient blood flow, which causes ischaemia and heart disease. Other names for ischaemic heart disease (IHD) are coronary heart disease and coronary artery disease.

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What is the leading cause of ischaemic heart disease?

One of the primary ischaemic heart disease causes of IHDis atherosclerosis, or plaque buildup in the coronary arteries. The heart muscle receives less blood and oxygen because of the arterial constriction or blockage caused by this condition.

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What causes ischaemic heart disease?

Ischaemic heart disease causes include reduced blood flow as a result of artery narrowing. It is mostly brought on by atherosclerosis, which is characterised by plaque accumulation obstructing coronary blood arteries and depriving the heart muscle of oxygen.

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How does coronary artery disease contribute to ischaemic heart disease?

The heart receives less blood when arteries are narrowed by coronary artery disease. By reducing the flow of oxygen to the heart, this constriction aggravates angina (chest discomfort) and leads to ischaemic heart disease.

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What role does atherosclerosis play in ischemic heart disease?

Plaque accumulation in arteries causes atherosclerosis, which narrows and obstructs them. This lowers the oxygen supply to the heart by restricting blood flow, which leads to ischaemic heart disease.

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Can high cholesterol levels lead to ischemic heart disease?

Yes, ischaemic heart disease can be exacerbated by high cholesterol levels. Elevated cholesterol encourages plaque buildup in arteries, which results in atherosclerosis. This artery constriction or blockage lowers cardiac blood flow and raises the possibility of heart-related problems.

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What is the relationship between smoking and ischemic heart disease?

The risk of ischaemic heart disease is greatly increased by smoking. Toxins from cigarettes damage arteries and encourage atherosclerosis. Lower blood flow increases the risk of a heart attack. Quitting smoking can reduce this danger.

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How does high blood pressure impact the development of ischemic heart disease?

Elevated blood pressure hastens the process of atherosclerosis, leading to artery narrowing. This restricts oxygen supply, which promotes the onset of ischaemic heart disease. The heart is strained by persistent hypertension, which raises the risk of cardiovascular problems.

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Is diabetes a significant factor in ischaemic heart disease?

Diabetes can increase the risk of ischaemic heart disease by limiting blood flow and developing atherosclerosis. High blood sugar levels have a role in the onset and progress of cardiovascular problems.

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Does obesity increase the risk of ischaemic heart disease?

Yes, obesity increases the risk of ischaemic heart disease. It causes atherosclerosis and impedes blood flow.

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How does a sedentary lifestyle contribute to ischaemic heart disease?

A sedentary lifestyle that does not involve physical exercise increases the risk of ischaemic heart disease by encouraging atherosclerosis, high blood pressure, and weight gain. Inadequate activity restricts blood flow, exacerbating oxygen shortage in the heart muscle.

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Are there genetic factors that influence ischaemic heart disease risk?

It is true that genetics affects the risk of ischaemic heart disease. Susceptibility is greatly influenced by inherited characteristics.

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Can stress and mental health impact the occurrence of ischaemic heart disease?

Yes, stress and mental health can impact the occurrence of ischaemic heart disease. Chronic stress and mental health issues contribute to elevated blood pressure and heart rate. This increases the risk of atherosclerosis, reduces blood flow, and compromises heart health.

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What is the connection between diet and ischaemic heart disease?

To manage ischaemic heart disease, diet is essential. It is important to maintain a heart-healthy diet reduced in cholesterol, salt, and saturated fats. It lowers the risk of atherosclerosis and associated cardiac problems by assisting in treating risk factors such as high blood pressure and cholesterol.

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Can alcohol consumption lead to ischaemic heart disease?

Excessive alcohol consumption increases the risk of arrhythmia, atherosclerosis, and blood pressure, all of which contribute to ischaemic heart disease. Drinking alcohol can damage the heart and exacerbate cardiovascular diseases.

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How does age impact the likelihood of developing ischaemic heart disease?

One important factor affecting the likelihood of ischaemic heart disease is age. People are more likely to acquire ischaemic heart disease as they become older. The incidence of atherosclerosis, the main cause of this illness, is highly correlated with advanced age.

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Are women equally at risk for ischaemic heart disease as men?

The risk of ischaemic heart disease is similar in men and women. They are equally affected by ischaemic heart disease, which emphasises the importance of immediate medical intervention and preventative measures for both sexes.

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Is ischaemic heart disease preventable by addressing its underlying causes?

Taking care of the underlying ischaemic heart disease causes, such as blood pressure, cholesterol, and lifestyle choices, is essential to preventing it. By proactively addressing these risk factors, the likelihood of getting this cardiovascular disease can be considerably decreased.

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What steps can be taken to reduce the risk of ischaemic heart disease?

Reduce the possibility of ischaemic heart disease by eating a heart-healthy diet, exercising frequently, and managing stress. Routine medical check-ups and adherence to recommended drugs further enhance preventive measures.

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Can medical treatment address the underlying causes of ischaemic heart disease?

The goal of medical therapy is to control ischaemic heart disease by managing its underlying causes, such as atherosclerosis. Interventions focus on risk factors and symptoms. With the use of drugs, alterations in lifestyle, and operations like angioplasty enhance heart health.

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How can individuals better understand and manage their risk for ischaemic heart disease?

Individuals can assess and manage their risk for ischaemic heart disease by:

  1. Adopting a healthy lifestyle

  2. Monitoring blood pressure and cholesterol

  3. Maintaining a balanced diet

  4. Exercising regularly

  5. Avoiding smoking

  6. Seeking regular check-ups with doctors

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All the articles on HexaHealth are supported by verified medically-recognized sources such as; peer-reviewed academic research papers, research institutions, and medical journals. Our medical reviewers also check references of the articles to prioritize accuracy and relevance. Refer to our detailed editorial policy for more information.

  1. Khan MA, Hashim MJ, Mustafa H, Baniyas MY, Al Suwaidi SKBM, AlKatheeri R, et al. Global Epidemiology of Ischemic Heart Disease: Results from the Global Burden of Disease Study. Cureus [Internet]. 2020 Jul 23;12(7):e9349. link
  2. Institute of Medicine (US) Committee on Social Security Cardiovascular Disability Criteria. Ischemic Heart Disease [Internet]. Nih.gov. National Academies Press (US); 2020. link
  3. Arjmand B, Abedi M, Arabi M, Alavi-Moghadam S, Rezaei-Tavirani M, Hadavandkhani M, et al. Regenerative Medicine for the Treatment of Ischemic Heart Disease; Status and Future Perspectives. Frontiers in Cell and Developmental Biology. 2021 Sep 10;9.link
  4. Mallat Z, Binder CJ. The why and how of adaptive immune responses in ischemic cardiovascular disease. Nature Cardiovascular Research [Internet]. 2022 May 1 [cited 2023 Nov 18];1(5):431–44. link
  5. Shah M, Sikkel MB. Coronary artery disease and age: beyond atherosclerosis. The Journal of Physiology [Internet]. 2013 Dec 1;591(Pt 23):5807–8. link
  6. Prevention of Cardiovascular Events and Death with Pravastatin in Patients with Coronary Heart Disease and a Broad Range of Initial Cholesterol Levels. New England Journal of Medicine. 1998 Nov 5;339(19):1349–57.link
  7. Manson JE, Colditz GA, Stampfer MJ, Willett WC, Rosner B, Monson RR, et al. A Prospective Study of Obesity and Risk of Coronary Heart Disease in Women. New England Journal of Medicine. 1990 Mar 29;322(13):882–9.link
  8. Marenberg ME, Risch N, Berkman LF, Floderus B, de Faire U. Genetic Susceptibility to Death from Coronary Heart Disease in a Study of Twins. New England Journal of Medicine. 1994 Apr 14;330(15):1041–6.link
  9. Mukamal KJ, Conigrave KM, Mittleman MA, Camargo CA, Stampfer MJ, Willett WC, et al. Roles of Drinking Pattern and Type of Alcohol Consumed in Coronary Heart Disease in Men. New England Journal of Medicine. 2003 Jan 9;348(2):109–18.link
  10. Masoud, Majidi M, Eslami V, Ghorbani P, Foroughi M. Are women more susceptible to ischemic heart disease compared to men? A literature overview. Journal of Geriatric Cardiology [Internet]. 2021;18(4):289–96. link
  11. Wang LYT, Lua JYH, Chan CXC, Ong RLL, Wee CF, Woo BFY. Health information needs and dissemination methods for individuals living with ischemic heart disease: A systematic review. Patient Education and Counseling. 2023 Mar;108:107594.link
  12. Mayo Clinic. Coronary Artery Disease [Internet]. Mayo Clinic. 2022. link
  13. NHS . Prevention - Coronary heart disease [Internet]. NHS. 2020.link
  14. CDC. Heart Disease and Mental Health Disorders | cdc.gov [Internet]. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. 2020. link
  15. NIH. Coronary Heart Disease - Treatment | NHLBI, NIH [Internet]. www.nhlbi.nih.gov. 2022. link

Updated on : 20 November 2023


Dr. Aman Priya Khanna

Dr. Aman Priya Khanna

MBBS, DNB General Surgery, Fellowship in Minimal Access Surgery, FIAGES

12 Years Experience

Dr Aman Priya Khanna is a well-known General Surgeon, Proctologist and Bariatric Surgeon currently associated with HealthFort Clinic, Health First Multispecialty Clinic in Delhi. He has 12 years of experience in General Surgery and worke...View More


Sparshi Srivastava

Sparshi Srivastava

B.Tech Biotechnology (Bansal Institute of Engineering and Technology, Lucknow)

2 Years Experience

An ardent reader, graduated in B.Tech Biotechnology. She was previously associated with medical sciences secondary research and writing. With a keen interest and curiosity-driven approach, she has been able to cont...View More

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