We are all born with a set number of heart cells or cardiomyocytes (CM) and you need to maintain these to live a normal, healthy life.
Inadequate blood flow to the heart (ischemia), as occurs during heart disease, causes physiological stress to cardiac cells. Stress lasting more than approx. 30 mins causes death of the cells and lasting damage whereas reversal of ischemia within this period preserves cellular function.
This loss of CMs can be significant during myocardial infarction (MI) when as many as 25% of the total 2-4 billion cells in the affected area can die and cannot be replaced by the body.
The extent of cell loss during an MI event defines future cardiac health and a patients healthy lifespan. In the US the median time from MI symptoms to treatment (usually percutaneous coronary intervention (PCI) or “stent”) is 185 mins, meaning most patients experience inevitable irreversible damage, with damage increasing in those patients with delayed time to PCI.