Myocardial Ischemia and Ischemic stroke

Ischemia is the condition in which living tissue doesn't get oxygen and nutrients, usually due to an obstruction of the blood flow to that tissue. Tissue experiencing ischemia is called ischemic and typically functions abnormally. If ischemia persists long enough, the affected tissue dies. This is called infarction, a term most people recognize in phrases like myocardial infarction (heart attack) or brain infarction (stroke).

Doctor taking patients blood pressure in doctors office
Martin Barraud / Getty Images

High Blood Pressure Is a Risk Factor

There are different types of ischemia and the kind you experience depends on the tissue affected. Atherosclerosis—hardening of the arteries—is a common cause of ischemia and hypertension greatly increases the risk of atherosclerosis. People with high blood pressure are at a greater risk of developing certain kinds of ischemia than the general population, including myocardial ischemia, which affects your heart, and ischemic stroke, which affects your brain.

Myocardial Ischemia

If you suffer from myocardial ischemia, also called cardiac ischemia, your heart isn't getting enough oxygen. The culprit is typically a partial or complete blockage of your coronary arteries, which causes damage to your heart muscle. When coronary artery disease is severe enough to produce myocardial ischemia, the heart muscle may go into hibernating myocardium. You may have a heart attack if you experience a sudden and severe blockage.

Common symptoms of myocardial ischemia include:

  • Pain in your neck, jaw, shoulder, or arm
  • Elevated heartbeat, called tachycardia
  • Nausea and vomiting
  • Prolonged and severe chest pain

In addition to high blood pressure, there are other common health conditions that make it more likely you'll develop myocardial ischemia, including high cholesterol, diabetes, and obesity.

Ischemic Stroke

When a blocked artery causes a lack of oxygen to your brain causing the tissue to suddenly die, you're having an ischemic stroke. The consequences of a stroke range from moderate to severe and depend on the part of the brain affected.

Immediate medical attention is so critical to saving the brain tissue, there's an acronym to help seniors, and their caregivers, easily remember the symptoms. If a person exhibits any one of the following symptoms by failing any of the following simple tests, call 9-1-1.

How to Recognize a Stroke

To determine if someone might be having a stroke act F.A.S.T.

  • Face. The person tries to smile, but one side droops.
  • Arms. When the person raises both arms, one drifts downward.
  • Speech. If you ask them to repeat a simple sentence, they answer with slurred speech or can't respond.
  • Time. Time is critical and getting to the hospital as quickly as possible is important.

Risk Factors for Stroke

Seniors are at a greater risk of stroke than the general population. Those with high blood pressure should be even more cautious. This condition contributes to more than half of all strokes and hypertensive patients are up to 10 times more likely to have a stroke.

Gender: Once you're a senior, stroke is equally common in both genders. However, stroke kills more senior men than women.

Lifestyle: These behaviors increase your risk and you can eliminate them by making a commitment to a healthier lifestyle:

  • eating a diet high in fat or sodium
  • abusing alcohol regularly or by binge drinking
  • smoking a pack a day doubles your risk of stroke 
  • insufficient exercise
Verywell Health uses only high-quality sources, including peer-reviewed studies, to support the facts within our articles. Read our editorial process to learn more about how we fact-check and keep our content accurate, reliable, and trustworthy.
  • Mayo Clinic: Myocardial Ischemia (2015)
  • University of Maryland Medical Center: Stroke (2012)

By Craig O. Weber, MD
Craig O. Weber, MD, is a board-certified occupational specialist who has practiced for over 36 years.