Myocardial ischemia occurs when the blood flow through one or more of your coronary arteries is decreased. The low blood flow decreases the amount of oxygen your heart muscle receives.

Myocardial ischemia can develop slowly as arteries become blocked over time. Or it can occur quickly when an artery becomes blocked suddenly.

Conditions that can cause myocardial ischemia include:

  • Coronary artery disease (atherosclerosis). Plaques made up mostly of cholesterol build up on your artery walls and restrict blood flow. Atherosclerosis is the most common cause of myocardial ischemia.
  • Blood clot. The plaques that develop in atherosclerosis can rupture, causing a blood clot. The clot might block an artery and lead to sudden, severe myocardial ischemia, resulting in a heart attack. Rarely, a blood clot might travel to the coronary artery from elsewhere in the body.
  • Coronary artery spasm. This temporary tightening of the muscles in the artery wall can briefly decrease or even prevent blood flow to part of the heart muscle. Coronary artery spasm is an uncommon cause of myocardial ischemia.

Chest pain associated with myocardial ischemia can be triggered by:

  • Physical exertion
  • Emotional stress
  • Cold temperatures
  • Cocaine use
July 25, 2015