The most common cause of death in Western culture is ischemic heart disease, which results from insufficient coronary blood flow. About 35 per cent of people in the United States die of this cause. Some deaths occur suddenly as a result of acute coronary occlusion or fibrillation of the heart, whereas other deaths occur slowly over a period of weeks to years as a result of progressive weakening of the heart pumping process. In this chapter, we discuss acute coronary ischemia caused by acute coronary occlusion and myocardial infarction. In Chapter 22, we discuss congestive heart failure, the most frequent cause of which is slowly increasing coronary ischemia and weakening of the cardiac muscle.
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