Ischemic heart disease is the leading cause of death in the U.S. Characterized by decreased blood supply to the heart, ischemic heart disease—also known as coronary heart disease—typically presents when there’s blockage in the coronary arteries. This blockage or narrowing can happen as a result of plaque build-up within the arteries that cuts off the blood supply to the heart. This can lead to a heart attack that damages the heart muscle.

There are a variety of heart conditions that qualify for Social Security (SS) benefits and are listed in the SS “Blue Book” of Impairments. However, to be eligible for financial support from the Social Security Administration, you need the proper medical evidence that shows your condition is debilitating and prevents you from sustaining gainful employment. It’s helpful to have a disability attorney working with you who understands the SS process and can give you the best chance of getting your claim accepted.heart inside stethoscope

Symptoms and Risks of Ischemic Heart Disease

When a person suffers from ischemic heart disease, the primary symptom is chest pain—also known as angina pectoris. He or she may experience a tightening or squeezing sensation in the chest or a dull aching feeling. This discomfort in the chest can be brought about by high emotion or physical exertion, and a single episode typically lasts three to five minutes. However, a person can also experience a longer episode called “unstable angina.”

People suffering from an episode of ischemic heart disease may also experience irregular or rapid heartbeats, weakness, fatigue, and shortness of breath—and these symptoms may be apparent as they’re exercising.

People are more at risk for ischemic heart disease if they:

  • Have diabetes
  • Have high blood pressure
  • Have lung disease due to smoking
  • Are obese

Being Eligible for SS Disability Benefits

Ischemic heart disease is a common condition that many older adults live with on a daily basis. It’s possible that symptoms such as fatigue, angina, and shortness of breath can be fairly mild and only present when the body is under extreme strain or the person is exerting high energy. Sometimes, moderate and severe symptoms occur when the body is resting.

Eligibility for SS disability benefits depends on how severe the symptoms are and whether or not the disease is debilitating. In general, you must be diagnosed with ischemic heart disease even after you’ve been on medication for cardiovascular or heart medication. You must also have medical evidence that shows a history of angina and meet the requirements of one of the following:

  • Ischemic episodes. If you've had three separate episodes when you experienced a temporary blockage of blood supply to the heart, and required that you have a stent angioplasty or coronary artery bypass surgery, you qualify automatically for disability.
  • Low results on an exercise stress test. When you take a stress test, the intensity of exercise is measured in metabolic equivalents (METS). One MET is the amount of energy that you expend at rest. The results of an exercise stress test must show one of a variety of irregularities at 5 METs or below.
  • Abnormal imaging results. It may be too dangerous for you to risk taking an exercise stress test, so you may qualify for benefits if an angiography shows that you have ischemic heart disease. The angiography must show evidence of one of the following:
    • Narrowing of a left main coronary artery by at least 50 percent. This artery cannot have had a bypass.
    • Narrowing of another coronary artery by at least 70 percent. This artery cannot have been bypassed.
    • Narrowing of a segment of a coronary artery that is more than one centimeter by at least 50 percent. This artery cannot have been bypassed.
    • Narrowing of two coronary arteries by at least 50 percent. This artery cannot have been bypassed.
    • Narrowing of a bypass graft vessel by at least 70 percent.

Additionally, your ischemic heart disease must limit your daily activities and functions.

We Can Help

If you have ischemic heart disease and want to apply for SS disability, or you’ve applied and your claim was denied, contact Cuddigan Law at (402)-933-5405. We’ll schedule an appointment to discuss your eligibility for benefits.


Timothy J. Cuddigan
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Omaha Social Security and Veterans Disability Lawyer With Over 40 Years Experience