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Ischemia is a condition in which blood flow and oxygen are restricted or reduced in a part of the body. Cardiac ischemia is when there is a decreased blood flow and oxygen to the heart muscle. Ischemia can be more commonly known as coronary heart disease. Coronary heart disease is the same as it involves less oxygen and blood reaching the heart muscle due to the narrowing of vessels. This can ultimately lead to a heart attack.

Ischemia can occur in any part of the body as vessels travel all around and any one of these vessels can become ischemic, leading to serious consequences and even death.

One of the main causes of ischemia is atherosclerosis. This is when there is a substantial build up of plaque in the arteries. This plaque can harden and narrow the arteries. This can slow blood flow, and therefore oxygen traveling in the body. If severe, it can block the arteries, preventing blood and oxygen from reaching their intended destination. Ischemia can also be due to a blood clot. This can cause sudden and serious consequences. Pieces of this clot can also break off and cause damage elsewhere in the body.

Ischemia can lead to a heart attack – myocardial infarction. The disruption to the vessels can cause heart failure.

Ischemia can also cause a stroke. Ischemic strokes are the most common type of stroke and occur when a blood clot blocks the flow of blood and oxygen to the brain.

Ischemia can also happen in the limbs, and this is called critical limb ischemia which is associated with peripheral artery disease. This can cause severe pain in the legs and if not treated, the leg might need to be amputated. Ischemia can also occur in the intestines. This is mesenteric ischemia. It can cause a hole in the large or small intestine and cause part of the intestine to die.

Ischemia is not always symptomatic. It can be termed silent ischemia. Some symptoms experience includes chest pain, fatigue, and headache. It is an extensive list depending on where the ischemia occurs.

Ischemia can be prevented with a healthy diet and lifestyle. Ensuring a healthy diet and sufficient exercise is undertaken can prevent the build up of fatty plaque in the arteries.

Treating ischemia is difficult and it depends on the circumstances. An ischemic stroke can be treated by locating the blood clot and dissolving and removing the clot. Different medications can be used to do this, otherwise surgery is required.

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