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Can I Qualify for Social Security Disability if I am suffering from Ischemic Heart Disease?

Ischemic heart disease is a term given to heart conditions caused by the narrowing or blocking of the coronary arteries. It is also known as coronary heart disease, atherosclerosis and hardening of the arteries. Men are more likely to develop ischemic heart disease than women, but that gap closes after women reach menopause. Women over the age of 35 who take oral contraceptives and smoke are at high risk.


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Ischemic Heart Disease Disability. The SSA recognizes ischemic heart disease in its list of impairments under section 4.04. If it has impacted your ability to work, you may be eligible for disability assistance.

Ischemic heart disease develops when a waxy substance called plaque builds up inside the coronary arteries, reducing the supply of oxygen and essential nutrients to the heart muscle.

This affects not only the heart, but the supply of oxygen to other vital organs such as the brain, kidneys and liver. Blood flow must be restored quickly or the heart muscle begins to die, leading to a heart attack.


Symptoms of ischemic heart disease may develop slowly or appear suddenly. In addition to acute chest pain, other symptoms include:

  •    Difficulty breathing or shortness of breath
  •   Dizziness
  •   Extreme fatigue
  •   Heart palpitations
  •   Swelling of extremities
  •   Pale or blue lips
  •   Cough or congestion due to fluid in the lungs
  •   Difficulty sleeping


Sometimes there are no symptoms, as in silent ischemia, where a person may not be aware of ischemic episodes because they do not experience any pain.

Contact a Social Security disability attorney at 512-454-4000 for a free consultation and see if you can get disability benefits while suffering from Ischemic Heart Disease. If you have been denied disability don’t give up!


There are a variety of causes which may lead to ischemic heart disease:

  •   Smoking
  •   Diabetes mellitus
  •   Hypercholesterolemia (a condition characterized by high levels of cholesterol in the blood)
  •    Hypertension or high blood pressure (blood pressure reading higher than 140/90)
  •   Genetic or hereditary factors
  •   Obesity
  •   Stress
  •   Alcohol or drug abuse
  •   Amyloidosis (abnormal build up of proteins in tissue)


If your doctor suspects you have heart disease, he will most likely conduct one or more of the following tests to confirm his diagnosis:

  •    Blood tests – measures cholesterol and triglycerides
  •   Electrocardiogram – records electrical activity in the heart
  •   Stress test – monitors heart’s activity during exercise
  •   Echocardiogram – evaluates heart function using sound waves
  •   Radionuclide studies – assesses heart’s pumping function
  •   X-ray, CT Scan and MRI – imaging that examines internal tissue
  •   Cardiac catheterization – checks narrowing of the arteries
  •   Myocardial biopsy – analyzes a sample of heart muscle


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Preventive measures are part of the treatment for ischemic heart disease.

If you smoke, quit. Avoid a diet high in saturated fats. Exercise, avoid stress, and control cholesterol levels and hypertension. You doctor may prescribe medications to improve your heart function and ease symptoms.


Some medications commonly prescribed are:

  •   beta-blockers to reduce blood pressure and heart rate
  •   diuretics to rid the body of excess fluid, lower blood pressure, and reduce the amount of work the heart muscle does
  •   medications to control heart rate and rhythm
  •    blood thinners
  •   calcium channel blockers which relax and widen arteries and lower blood pressure
  •   aldosterone inhibitors to lower blood pressure and rid the body of excess fluid to ease swelling and shortness of breath


Surgery or other procedures may also be recommended, such as:

  •    implantation of a pacemaker, defibrillator, or both, to normalize heart rate
  •   atherectomy to remove plaque from arteries
  •   angioplasty to open narrowed arteries
  •   insertion of a stent, a device designed to hold arteries open
  •   radiation therapy to keep arteries clear after angioplasty


In very serious cases, coronary bypass surgery is recommended.

In this instance, a portion of healthy blood vessel is removed from another part of the body and reattached near the blocked coronary artery, allowing blood to bypass the blocked artery and flow through the new blood vessel. In cases where the heart muscle is damaged beyond repair, a heart transplant may be recommended.


The Social Security Administration recognizes ischemic heart disease in its list of impairments under section 4.04.

See Part 4
4.04 Ischemic heart disease, with symptoms due to myocardial ischemia, as described in 4.00E3-4.00E7, while on a regimen of prescribed treatment (see 4.00B3 if there is no regimen of prescribed treatment), with one of the following:
A. Sign-or symptom-limited exercise tolerance test demonstrating at least one of the following manifestations at a workload equivalent to 5 METs or less:
1. Horizontal or downsloping depression, in the absence of digitalis glycoside treatment or hypokalemia, of the ST segment of at least −0.10 millivolts (−1.0 mm) in at least 3 consecutive complexes that are on a level baseline in any lead other than a VR, and depression of at least −0.10 millivolts lasting for at least 1 minute of recovery; or
2. At least 0.1 millivolt (1 mm) ST elevation above resting baseline in non-infarct leads during both exercise and 1 or more minutes of recovery; or
3. Decrease of 10 mm Hg or more in systolic pressure below the baseline blood pressure or the preceding systolic pressure measured during exercise (see 4.00E9e) due to left ventricular dysfunction, despite an increase in workload; or
4. Documented ischemia at an exercise level equivalent to 5 METs or less on appropriate medically acceptable imaging, such as radionuclide perfusion scans or stress echocardiography.
OR
B. Three separate ischemic episodes, each requiring revascularization or not amenable to revascularization (see 4.00E9f), within a consecutive 12-month period (see 4.00A3e).
OR
C. Coronary artery disease, demonstrated by angiography (obtained independent of Social Security disability evaluation) or other appropriate medically acceptable imaging, and in the absence of a timely exercise tolerance test or a timely normal drug-induced stress test, an MC, preferably one experienced in the care of patients with cardiovascular disease, has concluded that performance of exercise tolerance testing would present a significant risk to the individual, with both 1 and 2:
1. Angiographic evidence showing:
a. 50 percent or more narrowing of a nonbypassed left main coronary artery; or
b. 70 percent or more narrowing of another nonbypassed coronary artery; or
c. 50 percent or more narrowing involving a long (greater than 1 cm) segment of a nonbypassed coronary artery; or
d. 50 percent or more narrowing of at least two nonbypassed coronary arteries; or
e. 70 percent or more narrowing of a bypass graft vessel; and
2. Resulting in very serious limitations in the ability to independently initiate, sustain, or complete activities of daily living.


In order to qualify for Social Security Disability, you will need to satisfy a few specific requirements in two categories as determined by the Social Security Administration.

The first category is the Work Requirements which has two tests.

  1.   The Duration of Work test.   Whether you have worked long enough to be covered under SSDI.
  2.   The Current Work Test.   Whether you worked recently enough for the work to actually count toward coverage.

The second category is the Medical Eligibility Requirement.

  1.   Are you working?   Your disability must be “total”.
  2.   Is your medical condition severe?    Your disability must be “severe” enough to interfere with your ability to perform basic work-related activities, such as walking, sitting, and remembering.
  3.   Is your medical condition on the List of Impairments?   The SSA has a “List of Impairments” that automatically qualify as “severe” disabilities. If your disease is not listed this does not mean you cannot get disability, it means you must prove you cannot maintain employment due to your limitations.
  4.   Can you do the work you did before?   SSDI rules look at whether your medical condition prevents you from doing the work you did prior to developing the condition.
  5.   Can you do any other type of work?   If you cannot do your prior work, an evaluation is made as to whether you can perform any other kind of work.


More details can be found on our Qualifying for Disability page.


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Disability benefits are an important source of income for those who are unable to work. If you have ischemic heart disease and it has impacted your ability to work, you may be eligible for Social Security disability or Long Term Disability benefits. If you have applied for benefits and been denied, contact the attorneys at Bemis, Roach and Reed for a free consultation. Call 512-454-4000 and get help NOW.


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