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Important concepts and words good to know

26 Nov

Glossary of Heart Health Terms

angina: Chest pain or discomfort that develops when the heart muscle isn’t getting enough oxygen and blood; also known as angina pectoris.

angioplasty:
A procedure used to widen narrowed arteries, most commonly by inserting a thin tube, or catheter, into the affected artery and inflating a balloon.

arrhythmias:
Disorders of the heart’s pumping rhythm.

atherosclerosis:
The buildup of fatty deposits in the walls of arteries; the disease responsible for most heart attacks and many strokes.

cholesterol:
A waxy, fat-like substance that is present in animal tissues and produced by the liver. Excess levels can build up in artery walls.

congestive heart failure:
A disorder caused by a decrease in the heart’s ability to pump blood. May lead to the accumulation of fluid in the lungs, lower legs, or abdomen, resulting in shortness of breath, weakness, fatigue, or swelling.

coronary arteries:
The small blood vessels that carry oxygen-rich blood to the heart muscle.

coronary arteriography:
An x-ray procedure that shows blood moving through the blood vessels and heart. It involves the injection into the bloodstream of a fluid (contrast agent) that can be seen on the x-ray. Also known as coronary angiography; the resulting image is called an angiogram.

coronary artery bypass surgery:
Surgery that bypasses a blocked coronary artery by grafting a blood vessel taken from another part of the body to restore blood flow to the heart muscle.

coronary artery disease:
The most important form of heart disease, caused by the buildup of fatty plaques in the coronary arteries.

C-reactive protein (CRP):
A by-product of inflammation.

creatine kinase:
An enzyme produced by skeletal tissue and heart muscle. One form, creatine kinase-MB, is produced only by the heart; it’s usually elevated only when there has been damage to heart tissue — for example, because of a heart attack. A blood test for this enzyme can aid in the diagnosis of heart attack.

diastolic blood pressure:
The pressure in the arteries while the heart is refilling with blood between beats; the second and lower of the two numbers obtained when blood pressure is measured.

electrocardiogram (EKG):
A graph recording the electrical activity responsible for the contraction and relaxation of the heart.

fibrinogen:
A chemical that is part of the blood-clotting process.

heart attack:
Damage to, or death of, heart muscle because of insufficient blood supply; the medical term is myocardial infarction.

high blood pressure:
A longstanding increase in blood pressure above the normal range — that is, abnormally high pressure of blood flow against the artery walls; also called hypertension.

high-density lipoprotein (HDL):
A lipoprotein that transports cholesterol from body cells to the liver and other sites for elimination; called “good” cholesterol.

homocysteine:
High blood levels of this amino acid have been associated with an increased risk for heart disease. B vitamins appear to reduce blood levels of homocysteine.

ischemia:
Decreased blood flow that compromises the supply of oxygen and nutrients to organs or tissues.

lipids:
Fats, oils, and waxes that serve as building blocks for cells of the body or as energy sources; also capable of accumulating in the artery walls to form the plaques of atherosclerosis.

lipoprotein:
A combination of fat (lipid) molecules and protein molecules bound together as packages that enable other fats and cholesterol to move easily through the blood. See low-density lipoprotein and high-density lipoprotein.

lipoprotein(a):
A type of lipid that is similar in structure to LDL.

low-density lipoprotein (LDL):
Spherical particles that transport cholesterol in the blood; called “bad” cholesterol because high levels are associated with a high risk for heart attack.

myocardial infarction:
Heart attack.

plaque:
Deposits of cholesterol and fatty and fibrous substances in the walls of the arteries.

platelets:
Small, fragmentary blood cells that initiate the clotting process.

prehypertension:
A condition that increases the risk of developing high blood pressure; defined as 120–139 mm Hg systolic pressure or 80–89 diastolic pressure.

restenosis:
Renarrowing of a blood vessel that has been widened (with or without stents) during angioplasty.

statins:
Cholesterol-lowering medications that interfere with the enzyme 3-hydroxy-3-methylglutaryl-coenzyme A reductase; also known as HMG-CoA reductase inhibitors. Statins work by changing the way the liver processes lipids.

stent:
A wire mesh device inserted into a coronary artery to prop it open once a blockage has been cleared by angioplasty.

stress test:
A diagnostic test in which cardiovascular measurements — including heart rate, blood pressure, and electrical activity — are recorded while the heart is being “stressed” (usually by having the person exercise on a treadmill or bicycle).

systolic blood pressure:
The pressure in the arteries at the point when the heart pumps; the first and higher of the two numbers obtained when blood pressure is measured.

thrombolytic agents:
Agents or medications that dissolve blood clots and restore blood flow through a blocked artery; used to treat heart attack and stroke. Also called “clot busters.”

triglycerides:
Particles that transport fats through the bloodstream.
Source Harvard Medical Health

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