Ischemic heart disease, also known as coronary artery disease, develops when the coronary arteries have narrowed due to the buildup of plaque inside the walls of the arteries, according to Johns Hopkins Medicine. This plaque buildup, or atherosclerosis, is a collection of cholesterol, proteins and collagen, and the buildup occurs slowly over time until the arteries cannot deliver oxygen and other nutrients to the heart, which is called ischemia.
After ischemia develops, chest pain, or angina, can occur, according to Johns Hopkins. Blood clots may form blocking coronary arteries, and heart attacks can develop due to blockages. Recurrent angina is a common symptom of ischemic heart disease and is usually associated with exertion, states Healthgrades, although it may also occur while at rest. Some individuals may have severe angina, while others may have very few symptoms.
Johns Hopkins Medicine notes that high cholesterol, smoking, hypertension and diabetes all increase the risk of developing ischemic heart disease, and individuals with a family history of coronary artery disease may also have an increased risk. Men are more likely than women to be diagnosed with ischemic heart disease although women are also diagnosed with it. As of 2012, ischemic heart disease was the leading cause of death in the United States and throughout the world.