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Ischemic heart disease (IHD) is a condition in which there is an inadequate supply of blood and oxygen to a portion of the myocardium; it typically occurs when there is an imbalance between myocardial oxygen supply and demand. The most common cause of myocardial ischemia is atherosclerotic disease of an epicardial coronary artery (or arteries) sufficient to cause a regional reduction in myocardial blood flow and inadequate perfusion of the myocardium supplied by the involved coronary artery. Chapter 291e (from the 19th edition of Harrison’s) deals with the development and treatment of atherosclerosis. This chapter focuses on the chronic manifestations and treatment of IHD. The subsequent chapters address the acute phases of IHD.


image IHD causes more deaths and disability and incurs greater economic costs than any other illness in the developed world. IHD is the most common, serious, chronic, life-threatening illness in the United States, where 15.5 million persons have IHD, and 3.4 million people aged ≥40 years have angina pectoris. Although there is regional variation, about 4% of the population has sustained a myocardial infarction. Genetic factors, a high-fat and energy-rich diet, smoking, and a sedentary lifestyle are associated with the emergence of IHD. In the United States and Western Europe, IHD is growing among low-income groups, but primary prevention has delayed the disease to later in life across socioeconomic groups. Despite these sobering statistics, it is worth noting that epidemiologic data show a decline in the rate of deaths due to IHD, about half of which is attributable to treatments and half to prevention by risk factor modification.

Obesity, insulin resistance, and type 2 diabetes mellitus are increasing and are powerful risk factors for IHD. These trends are occurring in the general context of population growth and as a result of the increase in the average age of the world’s population. With urbanization in countries with emerging economies and a growing middle class, elements of the energy-rich Western diet are being adopted. As a result, the prevalence of risk factors for IHD and the prevalence of IHD itself are both increasing rapidly, so that in analyses of the global burden of disease, there is a shift from communicable to noncommunicable diseases. Population subgroups that appear to be particularly affected are men in South Asian countries, especially India and the Middle East. In light of the projection of large increases in IHD throughout the world, IHD is likely to become the most common cause of death worldwide by 2020.


Central to an understanding of the pathophysiology of myocardial ischemia is the concept of myocardial supply and demand. In normal conditions, for any given level of a demand for oxygen, the myocardium will control the supply of oxygen-rich blood to prevent underperfusion of myocytes and the subsequent development of ischemia and infarction. The major determinants of ...

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