Glossary

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Anemia
A condition marked by a deficiency of red blood cells or of hemoglobin in the blood.
Angina
Chest pain or discomfort caused by coronary artery disease (CAD).
Angioplasty (percutaneous coronary intervention (PCI))
A nonsurgical procedure that uses a catheter to open up blood vessels in the heart that have been narrowed by plaque buildup.
Angiotensin-converting enzyme (ACE) inhibitor
A prescription medication used to treat hypertension and heart failure.
Angiotensin II
A protein that increases blood pressure and stimulates the release of the hormone aldosterone.
Angiotensin receptor blocker
A medication that blocks the action of angiotensin II in order to enlarge blood vessels and reduce blood pressure.
Anticlotting medication
A medication that prevents platelets from clumping together and forming unwanted blood clots.
Anticoagulant (blood thinner)
A medication that prevents or breaks up blood clots that form in the blood vessels or heart.
Aorta
The body's main artery, which leads away from the heart toward the abdomen.
Arrhythmia
A condition in which the heart beats with an irregular or abnormal rhythm.
Arteries
Large blood vessels that branch away from the aorta and carry oxygen-rich blood from the heart to the rest of the body.
Arterioles
Medium-sized blood vessels that carry oxygen-rich blood throughout the body.
Atherosclerosis
A disease of the arteries characterized by the buildup of plaque on their inner walls, which results in the hardening and narrowing of the arteries.
Atrial fibrillation (AF or AFib)
An irregular, rapid heart rate caused by a quivering or fluttering of the upper chambers of the heart (atria).
Atrium (pl. atria)
One of the two upper chambers of the heart, which receive blood that is being returned to the heart. The right atrium receives oxygen-depleted blood returning from the rest of the body. The left atrium receives newly oxygenated blood from the lungs.
Beta blocker
A prescription medication used to control heart rhythm, treat angina, and reduce hypertension.
Blood clot
Clump that occurs when blood hardens from a liquid to a solid.
Blood thinner (anticoagulant)
A medication that prevents or breaks up blood clots that form in the blood vessels or heart.
Blood vessels
Veins, arteries, and capillaries.
Body mass index (BMI)
A measurement relating weight to height to approximate total body fat.
Bradycardia
An abnormally slow heart rate.
Calcium channel blocker
A prescription medication that prevents or slows the influx of calcium ions into smooth muscles cells, especially of the heart, and that are used to treat some forms of angina and some arrhythmias.
Capillaries
The body's smallest blood vessels, branching off from arterioles to exchange oxygen and nutrients with carbon dioxide and waste products throughout the body's tissues.
Cardiac catheterization
A procedure used to diagnose and treat some heart conditions, in which a catheter is inserted into a blood vessel in the arm, groin, or neck and threaded to the heart.
Cardiac rehabilitation
A medically supervised rehabilitation program for people who have had a heart attack, heart failure, heart valve surgery, coronary artery bypass grafting, or percutaneous coronary intervention.
Cardiac resynchronization therapy device
A type of pacemaker that sends small electrical impulses to both ventricles to help them beat together in a more synchronized pattern.
Cardiovascular system (circulatory system)
The system in the body consisting of the heart and blood vessels, responsible for delivering oxygen and nutrients to the tissues.
Catheter
A flexible tube inserted through a narrow opening into a body cavity to drain fluids or distend body passages.
Catheter ablation
A procedure that uses energy to make small scars in the heart tissue to prevent abnormal electrical signals from moving through the heart.
Cholesterol
A soft, waxy substance found among the lipids, or fats, in the bloodstream, and in all the body's cells.
Circulatory system (cardiovascular system)
The system in the body consisting of the heart and blood vessels, responsible for delivering oxygen and nutrients to the tissues.
Clopidogrel
An anticlotting medication used to reduce the risk of heart disease and stroke in those at high risk, and together with aspirin to treat heart attacks.
Clot-busting medication (thrombolytic medication)
A medication used to dissolve blood clots.
Coronary angiogram
A diagnostic test that uses dye and special x-rays to create images of the blood vessels of the heart.
Coronary artery
Either of two arteries supplying oxygen-rich blood to the heart muscle.
Coronary artery bypass grafting (CABG)
A surgical procedure in which one or more blocked coronary arteries are bypassed using a blood vessel graft in order to restore blood flow to the heart.
Coronary artery disease (CAD)
A condition in which plaque buildup causes the coronary arteries to harden and narrow.
Coronary heart disease (CHD)
Another name for coronary artery disease (CAD).

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Diabetes
A condition in which insulin resistance or a lack of insulin production causes elevated levels of blood glucose.
Digoxin
A compound used in small doses to treat some arrhythmias.
Diuretic
A medication that causes an increase in urination.
Dyslipidemia
A condition in which there are unhealthy levels of lipids, such as cholesterol or triglycerides, in the bloodstream.
Echocardiogram (echo)
A diagnostic test that uses sound waves to produce images of the chambers of the heart.
Electrocardiogram (ECG or EKG)
A diagnostic test that detects and records the heart's electrical activity.
Fibrous cap
The thin outer shell of plaque found inside an artery.
Glucose
A simple sugar that is an important source of energy for the body.
Heart attack (myocardial infarction)
Death of a portion of the heart muscle caused by a sudden decrease in blood supply to that area.
Heart failure
A condition in which the heart doesn't effectively move blood through the circulatory system in response to the body's demands.
High-density lipoprotein (HDL)
A type of cholesterol known as "good" cholesterol, since it collects excess cholesterol from the body and returns it to the liver, where it can be eliminated.
HMG CoA reductase
An enzyme that is responsible for producing cholesterol in the liver.
HMG CoA reductase inhibitor (statin)
A prescription medication used to reduce levels of fats, including triglycerides and cholesterol, in the blood.
Hypertension
High blood pressure.

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Insulin
A hormone produced by the pancreas to help the body's cells absorb and use glucose for energy.
Insulin resistance
A condition in which cells in the body fail to respond normally to the hormone insulin.
Internal mammary artery (internal thoracic artery)
An artery that supplies oxygen-rich blood to the anterior (front) chest wall and the breasts.
Ischemic heart disease
Another name for coronary artery disease (CAD).
Isosorbide dinitrate/hydralazine hydrochloride
A medication that combines an antihypertensive with a vasodilator to treat heart failure.
Left-side heart failure
Failure of pumping power in the left chambers of the heart, which causes fluid to back up in the lungs.
Lipids
Fats associated with cholesterol.
Low-density lipoprotein (LDL)
A type of cholesterol known as "bad" cholesterol, since it is the cholesterol molecule that cells take up to form cholesterol plaques.
Maze surgery
A surgical treatment for atrial fibrillation, which uses small incisions, radio waves, freezing, or microwave or ultrasound energy to create scar tissue.
Mechanical heart pump
A device that supports heart function and blood flow in people who have weakened hearts.
Minimally invasive direct coronary artery bypass (MIDCAB)
A form of coronary artery bypass grafting (CABG) surgery in which a small incision between the ribs is used to access the heart.
Monounsaturated fatty acid
A fatty acid that helps reduce LDL cholesterol in the blood.
Myocardial infarction (heart attack)
Death of a portion of the heart muscle caused by a sudden decrease in blood supply to that area.

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Nitroglycerin
A vasodilator used to treat angina and heart attack.
Obese
A body weight that is much higher than what is considered healthy; for adults, a body mass index (BMI) of 30.0 and above.
Off-pump coronary artery bypass grafting (CABG)
A form of coronary artery bypass grafting (CABG) surgery performed without stopping the heart and using a heart-lung bypass machine.
Overweight
A body weight that is higher than what is considered healthy; for adults, a body mass index (BMI) between 25.0 And 29.9.
Pacemaker
An artificial device implanted under the skin to stimulate the heart muscle and regulate contractions.
Palpitation
A noticeably rapid, strong, or irregular heartbeat.
Percutaneous coronary intervention (PCI) (angioplasty)
A nonsurgical procedure that uses a catheter to open up blood vessels in the heart that have been narrowed by plaque buildup.
Pericardium
A membrane enclosing the heart, consisting of an outer fibrous layer and an inner double layer of serous membrane.
Plaque
A waxy substance consisting of fat, cholesterol, calcium, and other substances in the blood.
Platelets
A small colorless disk-shaped cell fragment, found in large numbers in blood and involved in clotting.
Polyunsaturated fatty acid
A fatty acid that helps reduce LDL cholesterol in the blood.
Preeclampsia
A condition in pregnancy characterized by high blood pressure, sometimes with fluid retention and excess protein in the urine.
Prinzmetal's angina (variant angina)
Chest pain or discomfort caused by a spasm in the coronary arteries.
Pulmonary vein
A vein carrying oxygenated blood from the lungs to the left atrium of the heart.
Pulse
The number of electrical signals produced by the sinoatrial (SA) node per minute.
Right-side heart failure
Failure of pumping power in the right chambers of the heart, which causes fluid to back up in the body's veins.
Saphenous vein (great saphenous vein)
The longest vein in the body, running along the length of the leg.
Saturated fat
A form of fat found in various types of foods, particularly animal products, that is readily converted into cholesterol in the body.
Sinoatrial (SA) node
A small body of specialized muscle tissue in the wall of the right atrium of the heart that controls pulse by producing an electrical signal at regular intervals.
Sleep apnea
A common disorder in which a person has one or more pauses in breathing or shallow breaths during sleep.
Spasm
A sudden, involuntary muscular contraction or convulsive movement.
Stable angina
Chest pain or discomfort that follows a predictable pattern of frequency, severity, and triggering factors.
Statin (HMG CoA reductase inhibitor)
A prescription medication used to reduce levels of fats, including triglycerides and cholesterol, in the blood.
Stent
A tubular support placed temporarily inside a blood vessel, canal, or duct to aid healing or relieve an obstruction.
Stress test
A diagnostic test in which exercise or medicine is used to make the heart work harder and beat faster in order to reveal signs or symptoms of heart disease.
Sudden cardiac arrest
A condition in which the heart suddenly and unexpectedly stops beating.
Tachycardia
An abnormally rapid heart rate.
Thrombolytic medication (clot-busting medication)
A medication used to dissolve blood clots.
Traditional coronary artery bypass grafting (CABG)
A form of coronary artery bypass grafting (CABG) surgery that involves opening up the sternum to access the heart, using drugs to stop the heart pumping, and connecting a heart-lung bypass machine to keep blood flowing through the body.
Trans fat
A form of unsaturated fat that results when vegetable oils are made solid or are hydrogenated.
Triglycerides
A type of lipid or fat; the chemical form taken by most fat in foods.
Unstable angina
Chest pain or discomfort that does not follow a predictable pattern of frequency, severity, or triggering factors.
Valves
Structures within the heart that open and close in order to control movement of blood through the heart chambers.
Variant angina (Prinzmetal's angina)
Chest pain or discomfort caused by a spasm in the coronary arteries.
Vasodilator
A medication that widens blood vessels by relaxing the smooth muscle cells within the vessel walls.
Veins
Blood vessels that carry oxygen-depleted blood back to the heart from the rest of the body.
Ventricle
One of the two lower chambers of the heart that receive blood from the atria. The right ventricle pumps blood to the lungs. The left ventricle pumps blood to the rest of the body.
Ventricular fibrillation (v-fib)
An irregular, rapid heart rate caused by a quivering or fluttering of the lower chambers of the heart (ventricles).