Terms & Definitions

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Heart and blood vessels definitions

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A

  • ablation (ab-LA-shun).

    • Removal or elimination, as in the surgical destruction of heart tissue that can cause arrhythmias.

  • acute.

    • A term used to describe disorders, signs or symptoms that occur abruptly or that run a short course; the opposite of chronic.

  • adrenaline.

    • A naturally occurring hormone that increases heart rate and blood pressure and affects other body functions. Also called epinephrine.

  • aerobic.

    • Requiring the presence of oxygen. Aerobic exercise, for example, is exercise performed at an intensity level that allows oxygen intake from breathing to keep up with the body's use of oxygen in the chemical reaction that releases energy in muscles.

  • alpha blockers.

    • A class of medications that dilate arteries by preventing norepinephrine from reaching alpha receptors in arterial walls.

  • alveoli (al-VEE-o-li).

    • Microscopic air sacs in the lungs where oxygen and carbon dioxide are exchanged between the blood and air.

  • amyloidosis (am-uh-loi-DO-sis).

    • A condition in which the body produces excessive amounts of certain proteins that can build up in organs, such as the heart, liver and kidneys.

  • anaerobic.

    • Without oxygen, as in a type of exercise in which the activity level is vigorous enough that the body uses oxygen at a rate faster than it can take it in.

  • aneurysm (AN-u-rizm).

    • A sac formed when a segment of a blood vessel, usually an artery, widens or dilates. The sac is filled with fluid, cholesterol or clotted blood, often forming a pulsating mass that may rupture and cause fatal bleeding.

  • angina pectoris (an-JI-nuh or AN-juh-nuh PEK-tuh-ris).

    • Pain or tightness in the chest. It usually occurs when the heart doesn't get enough blood because its arteries are clogged with clumps of fats, cholesterol and other material (atherosclerosis). See also chest pain.

  • angiogram.

  • angiography.

    • X-ray (radiographic) imaging of blood vessels after injection of radiocontrast dye to determine how freely blood can flow. Also called angiogram, arteriography and venography.

  • angioplasty.

    • A procedure for dilating a narrowed or blocked part of a blood vessel by inserting a catheter with a balloon at the tip that opens the artery. Often includes use of a stent to prop the artery open. Also called percutaneous transluminal coronary angioplasty (PTCA). See also stent.

  • annulus (AN-u-lus).

    • The ring around a heart valve where the valve leaflet merges with the heart muscle.

  • anti-arrhythmics (an-te-uh-rith-miks).

    • A group of medications used to treat irregular heart rhythms (arrhythmias).

  • aorta.

    • The largest artery in the body. It carries oxygen-rich blood from the left ventricle of the heart to the rest of the body.

  • aortic aneurysm (AN-u-rizm).

    • A bulge in the wall of the aorta that may rupture and cause life-threatening internal bleeding. It usually occurs when the artery wall becomes weakened or damaged by clumps of fats, cholesterol and other material (atherosclerosis). It may also occur after injury to or infection or inflammation of the artery wall, or because of inherited defects in tissue structure.

  • aortic dissection.

    • A life-threatening condition in which the aorta partially tears, causing separation (dissection) of the layers of the aortic wall and bleeding into and along the wall of the aorta. Also called dissecting aneurysm.

  • aortic valve.

    • The valve that controls blood flow between the left ventricle of the heart and the aorta.

  • aortic valve regurgitation.

    • A condition in which the heart's aortic valve doesn't close tightly, allowing blood to leak back into the left ventricle instead of only moving forward into the aorta. Also called aortic insufficiency or aortic incompetence.

  • aortic valve stenosis.

    • A narrowing of the valve opening between the left ventricle and aorta, which obstructs blood flow from the heart into the aorta and causes blood to back up, as behind a dam.

  • apnea.

    • A temporary cessation of breathing.

  • arrhythmia (uh-RITH-me-uh).

    • An abnormal heart rhythm, occurring either continuously or intermittently. The heart may beat too fast (tachycardia), too slowly (bradycardia) or irregularly. Also called dysrhythmia.

  • arteriography.

  • arteriole (ahr-teer-e-ol).

    • A branch of an artery leading to a capillary.

  • arteriosclerosis (ahr-teer-e-o-skluh-RO-sis).

    • A group of diseases in which the walls of arteries become hard and thick, sometimes interfering with blood circulation. It results from the natural aging process or atherosclerosis. See also atherosclerosis.

  • arteriovenous (ahr-teer-e-oh-VE-nus) malformation.

    • A congenital disorder characterized by a tangle of interconnected arteries and veins that lack the capillaries that would normally connect them.

  • arteritis.

    • Inflammation of arteries.

  • artery.

    • A type of blood vessel that carries blood from the heart to the rest of the body.

  • asystole (a-SIS-to-le).

    • Absence of a heartbeat.

  • atherectomy (ath-ur-EK-tuh-me).

    • A method for shaving or removing atherosclerotic plaques from inside arteries using a specially designed catheter.

  • atherosclerosis (ath-ur-o-skluh-RO-sis).

    • The most common form of arteriosclerosis, in which deposits (plaques) made up of fats, cholesterol and other material accumulate on the inner walls of arteries, resulting in narrower, less flexible pathways for blood to flow through.

  • atria.

    • The two upper chambers of the heart that receive blood from veins and pass it to the ventricles. Singular form is atrium.

  • atrial septum.

    • The thin wall that divides the heart's left and right atria.

  • atrioventricular.

    • Between the atria and ventricles.

  • atrioventricular block.

    • Blockage or slowing of the electric signal between the heart's atria and ventricles.

  • atrioventricular node.

    • A cluster of cells between the heart's atria and ventricles that slows and directs the electric current of the heart to the ventricles.

  • atrium.

    • See atria.

  • auscultation (aws-kul-TA-shun).

    • A method of listening to the sounds of various organs, such as murmurs in the heart.

  • autograft.

    • A surgical procedure in which one body part is used to repair another part, as when a vein replaces a diseased artery.

  • autonomic nervous system.

    • The portion of the nervous system that regulates involuntary body functions, such as respiration, digestion and circulation.

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B

  • bacterial endocarditis.

    • A bacterial infection of the lining (endocardium) of the heart's chambers or its valves.

  • balloon angioplasty.

  • balloon valvuloplasty.

    • A procedure to repair a heart valve using a catheter tipped with a balloon to open and separate any narrowed or stiffened flaps (leaflets) of a valve.

  • beta blockers.

    • A class of medications that slow the heart rate and reduce blood pressure. These drugs are used to prevent angina pectoris, to lessen the risk of a second heart attack and to treat congestive heart failure. See also alpha blockers.

  • bicuspid valve.

  • bioprosthesis.

    • A prosthetic heart valve made pig (porcine) or beef (bovine) tissue.

  • blood pressure.

    • The force of blood against the inner walls of the arteries. It's created by the opposing forces of the heart pumping and the arteries resisting blood flow. Blood pressure is recorded as two numbers: systolic before, or over, diastolic. Normal blood pressure values are less than 120 millimeters of mercury (mm Hg) systolic and 80 mm Hg diastolic. See also diastole and systole.

  • blood thinners.

    • Medications, such as warfarin and heparin, used to prevent blood clotting.

  • blood vessels.

    • Channels that carry blood. They include arteries, arterioles, capillaries, veins and venules.

  • blood volume.

    • The total amount of blood circulating in the cardiovascular system.

  • bradycardia (brad-e-KAHR-de-uh).

    • An abnormally slow heart rate.

  • bronchial tubes.

    • The large breathing tubes leading from the windpipe (trachea) into the lungs. Also called bronchi. The singular form is bronchus.

  • bronchiectasis (brong-ke-EK-tuh-sis).

    • Abnormal enlargement of bronchial tubes caused by chronic infection.

  • bronchiole (BRONG-ke-ole).

    • One of the subdivisions of a bronchial tube (bronchus). See also bronchial tubes.

  • bronchitis.

    • Inflammation of the bronchial tubes.

  • bronchodilator.

    • Medicine used to open (dilate) the airways.

  • bronchoscopy.

    • A procedure in which an instrument is passed into the airway to inspect the lungs or obtain specimens.

  • bruit (bru-we).

    • A French word meaning "noise." It's used to describe the abnormal sound produced by blood flowing through an artery that's not perfectly smooth. Bruits are most commonly caused by the accumulation of plaques in arteries.

  • bundle branch block.

    • A condition in which portions of the heart's conduction system become defective and unable to conduct electric signals normally.

  • bypass.

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C

  • CABG.

  • capillary.

    • The smallest type of blood vessel in the body, responsible for delivering oxygen and nutrients to individual cells.

  • cardiac.

    • Pertaining to the heart.

  • cardiac arrest.

    • The failure of the heart to pump blood because of the cessation of heart beats.

  • cardiac catheterization.

    • A procedure in which a catheter is inserted into a blood vessel and guided into the heart in order to visualize the heart and blood vessels and to help diagnose and treat heart disease. It's often done in conjunction with angiography.

  • cardiac cycle.

    • The period from the beginning of one heartbeat to the beginning of the next.

  • cardiac enzymes.

    • Substances in the body that can speed up certain biochemical processes in the heart muscle. Elevated levels in the blood stream can result from a heart attack.

  • cardiac ischemia (is-KE-me-uh).

    • A shortage of blood and oxygen to the heart muscle (myocardium). It's usually caused by narrowing or blockage of one or more of the coronary arteries.

  • cardiac output.

    • The volume of blood the heart pumps through the circulatory system in one minute.

  • cardiac rehabilitation.

    • A medically supervised program of exercise and support to aid the return to normal activities after a heart attack or heart surgery.

  • cardiologist.

    • A physician who specializes in the diagnosis and treatment of heart and blood vessel disorders.

  • cardiology.

    • The branch of medicine pertaining to the study and treatment of the heart and blood vessels.

  • cardiomegaly.

  • cardiomyopathy.

    • General term for diseases of the heart muscle, which impair the ability of the heart to pump.

  • cardiopulmonary.

    • Pertaining to the heart and lungs.

  • cardiopulmonary bypass.

  • cardiopulmonary resuscitation (CPR).

    • Emergency first-aid technique for reviving someone whose heart and breathing have stopped.

  • cardiovascular disease.

    • General term for diseases of the heart or blood vessels.

  • cardiovascular system.

    • The heart and blood vessels.

  • cardioversion.

    • Electric shock applied to the chest to convert an abnormal heart rhythm to normal.

  • carotid artery.

    • One of the two principal arteries in the neck that carry blood to the head and brain.

  • CCU.

    • Coronary (cardiac) care unit.

  • cerebral vascular accident.

  • chest pain.

    • A general term often used to describe pain, tightness or discomfort in the chest area. See also angina pectoris.

  • cholesterol.

    • A fat-like substance in some foods that is synthesized in the liver and found in the blood and most cells of the body. It's also found in deposits of plaques in the walls of arteries, where it contributes to atherosclerosis.

  • chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD).

    • The general term for a group of chronic conditions, such as chronic bronchitis and emphysema, that result in obstruction of lung airways.

  • circulatory system.

    • The system of blood vessels, responsible for circulating blood throughout the body to provide tissues with oxygen and nutrients and to remove waste products from the blood.

  • claudication.

    • Pain in the muscles of the extremities during exercise, resulting from inadequate blood flow through arteries. Also called intermittent claudication.

  • coagulate.

    • To solidify or change from a liquid to a semisolid, as when blood clots.

  • collateral vessels.

    • Small branches of arteries and veins that develop to bypass narrowed or blocked segments, creating collateral circulation.

  • computerized tomography (CT).

    • An X-ray technique that uses a computer to construct images of the body.

  • conduction system.

    • Special muscle fibers that conduct electric impulses throughout the muscle of the heart, causing it to beat.

  • congenital heart disease.

    • Forms of heart disease that exist at birth, such as a hole between the upper chambers (atrial septal defect) or lower chambers (ventricular septal defect), an abnormal valve, or a narrowing of a section of the aorta (coarctation).

  • congestion.

    • The presence of excessive blood or fluid, such as mucus, in an organ or tissue.

  • congestive heart failure.

    • A condition in which the heart is unable to efficiently pump an adequate amount of blood through the body, allowing fluid to back up into the tissues of the lung (pulmonary edema) and the lower extremities. Also called heart failure.

  • contraction.

    • The tightening or shortening of a muscle, such as when the heart contracts and squeezes blood out of its chambers.

  • coronary.

    • Pertaining to arteries that supply blood to the heart muscle.

  • coronary angiography.

    • A diagnostic test in which dye is injected into coronary arteries before an X-ray is taken to look for disease or blockage.

  • coronary arteries.

    • The arteries that help supply blood to the heart muscle.

  • coronary artery bypass graft (CABG).

    • An operation that reroutes the blood around a diseased coronary artery by grafting a section of blood vessel from the leg, chest or arm to use as the alternate route.

  • coronary artery disease (CAD).

    • General term for diseases of the arteries that supply the heart muscle with blood, usually meaning that blood flow through the arteries is impaired. Also called ischemic heart disease.

  • coronary heart disease.

    • A general term for diseases of the coronary arteries and their resulting complications, such as angina, a heart attack and scar tissue that forms after a heart attack.

  • coronary insufficiency.

    • An inability of the coronary arteries to provide enough oxygen to meet the needs of heart muscle.

  • coronary occlusion.

    • An obstruction in a coronary artery that disrupts blood flow to the heart muscle. Called coronary thrombosis when the occlusion is caused by a blood clot.

  • coronary sinus.

    • The main coronary vein that drains blood from the heart muscle into the right atrium.

  • coronary spasm.

    • An abnormal tendency for coronary arteries to constrict intermittently, reducing the supply of oxygenated blood to the heart muscle and possibly leading to chest pain or heart attack. Also called endothelial dysfunction.

  • C-reactive protein (CRP).

    • A protein produced by the liver as part of a normal immune system response to injury or infection. High levels of CRP in the blood have been associated with an increased risk of cardiovascular disease.

  • CT angiogram.

    • The use of a computerized tomography machine to visualize blood flow in arteries.

  • cusp.

    • A part of a heart valve.

  • cyanosis.

    • Bluish discoloration of the skin from lack of oxygen in the blood.

  • cyanotic heart disease.

    • Birth defects of the heart that cause oxygen-depleted (blue) blood to circulate in the body before passing through the lungs.

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D to F

  • deep vein thrombosis (DVT).

    • A blood clot in the deep veins of the body, most commonly in the leg.

  • defibrillation.

    • Electric shock applied to the chest to return an irregular heart rhythm (fibrillation) to normal.

  • defibrillator.

    • An electronic device that helps restore a regular heartbeat when an abnormal heart rhythm is detected.

  • dextrocardia.

    • A condition in which the heart lies to the right side of the chest, rather than the left.

  • diastole (di-AS-to-le).

    • The period between heartbeats when the heart relaxes and fills with blood. See also systole.

  • digitalis.

    • Medication that increases the force of the heart's contraction and slows certain types of fast heartbeats. Used to treat congestive heart failure and some heart rhythm problems.

  • dissecting aneurysm.

  • Doppler ultrasound.

    • Use of sound waves to assess blood flow within the heart and blood vessels and to identify leaking valves.

  • dyspnea (disp-NE-uh).

    • Shortness of breath.

  • dysrhythmia (dis-RITH-me-uh).

  • echocardiogram.

    • Ultrasound scanning of the heart to look for abnormalities in structure and function.

  • effusion (uh-FU-zhun).

  • ejection fraction.

    • A measurement of the percentage of blood that's pumped out of a filled ventricle with each heartbeat. The normal ejection fraction is 50 percent or more.

  • electrocardiogram (ECG, EKG).

    •  A procedure that records the electrical activity of the heart muscle to help in diagnosing many heart conditions, including heart attack and abnormal heart rhythms (arrhythmias).

  • electron beam computed tomography (EBCT).

    • A form of computed tomography that produces clear, precise images of the arteries while the heart is beating.

  • embolism.

    • Obstruction of a blood vessel by a blood clot, air bubble, fat deposit or other foreign substance (embolus) that has moved from the site where it formed.

  • endarterectomy (end-ahr-tur-EK-tuh-me).

    • The surgical removal of plaque deposits or blood clots in an artery that has been narrowed by atherosclerosis.

  • endocarditis.

    • An inflammation of the endocardium, usually caused by a bacterial infection.

  • endocardium.

  • endothelial dysfunction.

  • endothelium (en-do-THE-le-um).

    • A layer of cells on the inner surface of blood vessels.

  • enlarged heart.

    • A condition in which the heart is larger than normal because of such diseases as high blood pressure, congenital heart disease and coronary artery disease. Also called cardiomegaly.

  • epicardium.

    • The thin, exterior membrane that covers the outside surface of the heart muscle. See also endocardium and myocardium.

  • epinephrine (ep-ih-NEF-rin).

  • exercise stress test.

    • A test used to diagnose coronary artery disease by assessing blood flow to the heart muscle in response to exercise, such as walking on a treadmill.

  • expiration.

    • Letting a breath out. Also called exhalation.

  • extrasystole.

    • A premature heartbeat.

  • familial hypercholesterolemia (hi-pur-kuh-les-tur-ol-E-me-uh).

    • An inherited form of high blood cholesterol levels.

  • fibrillation.

    • Quivering or irregular contraction of heart muscle fibers, preventing the heart from contracting as a unit and pumping blood effectively. Causes irregular heartbeat.

  • fluid around the heart.

    • A condition in which excess fluid builds up between the heart and the membrane (pericardium) that surrounds it. Also called pericardial effusion.

  • fluoroscopy.

    • Use of X-rays to create images on a screen rather than on X-ray film.

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G to J

  • generic drug.

    • A medication that has the same active drug as a trademarked brand-named version but may differ in other components.

  • hardening of the arteries.

  • heart.

    • The muscular organ that performs the main function of the circulatory system by pumping blood to the body's tissues.

  • heart attack.

    • Death of an area of heart muscle. It's caused by blockage of one or more of the coronary arteries that results in sudden interruption of blood to a part of the heart. Also called myocardial infarction.

  • heart catheterization.

  • heart disease.

    • A general term for the diseases and conditions affecting the heart.

  • heart failure.

  • heart-lung machine.

    • A device that takes over the function of the heart and lungs so the heart can be safely stopped during open-heart surgery.

  • heart murmur.

    • An abnormal sound heard during the normal heartbeat. The condition can be benign or a sign of a diseased heart valve or other heart abnormality.

  • heart rate.

    • The number of contractions of the heart in one minute.

  • heart transplant.

    • Replacement of a damaged or diseased heart with a healthy one from a donor.

  • heart valve.

  • heparin.

    • A substance that inhibits blood clotting.

  • high blood pressure.

    • A condition in which the blood is pumped through the body under abnormally high pressure. In adults, the average of several blood pressure readings of 140 millimeters of mercury (mm Hg) systolic or 90 mm Hg diastolic, or both, taken by medical professionals, indicates high blood pressure.

  • high-density lipoprotein (HDL) cholesterol.

  • Holter monitor.

    • A portable electrocardiographic device worn for 24 hours or more to detect and record irregular heartbeats and other heart rhythm disorders.

  • homocysteine (ho-mo-SIS-teen).

    • An amino acid the body uses to make protein and to build and maintain tissue. Abnormally high levels in the blood may indicate an increased risk of stroke, certain types of heart disease, and disease of the blood vessels of the arms, legs and feet (peripheral vascular disease).

  • hyper-.

    • A prefix meaning excessive or increased.

  • hypercholesterolemia (hi-pur-kuh-les-tur-ol-E-me-uh).

    • An elevated level of cholesterol in the blood.

  • hyperkalemia (hi-pur-kuh-LE-me-uh).

    • Excessive levels of potassium in the blood, potentially resulting in muscle weakness, abnormal heart rhythms and even sudden death.

  • hyperlipidemia (hi-pur-lip-ih-DE-me-uh).

    • Excess fats (lipids) in the bloodstream.

  • hypertrophic cardiomyopathy.

    • An overgrowth of heart muscle that may impede blood flow into and out of the heart.

  • hypo-.

    • A prefix meaning inadequate or insufficient.

  • hypokalemia (hi-po-kuh-LE-me-uh).

    • Too little potassium in the blood, commonly caused by taking diuretics. More rarely, it may occur in some forms of high blood pressure.

  • hypotension.

  • hypoxia.

    • Decreased concentration of oxygen in the blood.

  • ICD.

  • idiopathic.

    • Having no known cause.

  • implantable cardioverter defibrillator.

    • A small, battery-powered, self-contained device that's implanted under the skin, usually near the left collarbone, to continuously monitor heart rhythm and correct rapid heartbeats with an electrical shock.

  • incompetent valve.

  • infarct.

    • An area of tissue that dies because of blockage of its blood supply.

  • inferior vena cava.

    • The large vein that carries deoxygenated blood from the legs and abdomen to the heart.

  • inflammation.

    • Body tissue's reaction to injury from infection, physical injury or irritation, resulting in swelling, pain, heat and redness.

  • inotropic (in-o-TROP-ik) medications.

    • Drugs that increase the strength of heart contractions.

  • inspiration.

    • Taking in a breath. Also called inhalation.

  • insufficiency.

  • intermittent claudication.

  • irregular heart beat.

  • ischemia (is-KE-me-uh).

    • A decreased supply of blood to an organ or tissue, such as the heart, caused by blockage or narrowing of the arteries.

  • ischemic heart disease.

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K to M

  • Kawasaki disease.

    • A rare childhood disease that affects the coronary arteries and other parts of the body.

  • leaflet.

    • The part of a heart valve that opens and closes like a door to let blood through. Normal valves have two or three leaflets. Also called a flap.

  • left ventricular hypertrophy.

    • Thickening of the wall of the left pumping chamber of the heart as a result of prolonged high blood pressure, aortic valve stenosis or other conditions. Can lead to congestive heart failure.

  • lipids.

    • Fats or fat-like substances in the blood, such as cholesterol.

  • lipoprotein (lip-oh-PRO-teen).

    • A combination of protein, fats (lipids) and fat-like substances, such as cholesterol, in the blood.

  • long QT syndrome.

    • A disorder of the heart's electrical system in which the heart muscle takes longer than normal to electrically recharge between beats, sometimes resulting in an irregular heart rhythm.

  • low blood pressure.

    • Abnormally low systolic blood pressure, usually less than 100 millimeters of mercury (mm Hg).

  • low-density lipoprotein (LDL) cholesterol.

    • A type of cholesterol necessary for body functions, but which, in excessive amounts, tends to accumulate in artery walls. Sometimes called the "bad" cholesterol. See also cholesterol.

  • magnetic resonance imaging (MRI).

    • An imaging procedure that uses magnetic fields and radio waves to produce images of body structures.

  • metabolic syndrome.

    • A combination of risk factors for heart disease, including high blood sugar (glucose intolerance), high blood pressure, high triglycerides, low levels of high-density lipoprotein (HDL) cholesterol, and abdominal obesity. Also called syndrome X.

  • mitral valve.

    • The heart valve that allows oxygenated blood to move into the left ventricle from the left atrium.

  • mitral valve prolapse.

    • An abnormality, usually congenital, in which the leaflets of the mitral valve are larger than normal and bulge into the left atrium during the heart's contraction.

  • mitral valve regurgitation.

    • Failure of the mitral valve to close properly, allowing blood to leak back into the heart's left atrium instead of moving completely into the left ventricle. Also called mitral insufficiency or mitral incompetence.

  • mitral valve stenosis.

    • A narrowing of the mitral valve, obstructing blood flow into the left ventricle from the left atrium and causing blood to back up, as behind a dam.

  • multigated acquisition scan (MUGA).

    • A test used to measure heart function and performance.

  • multivessel disease.

    • Blood vessel disease in which more than one vessel is blocked or impaired. Usually refers to coronary arteries.

  • murmur.

  • myocardial (mi-o-KAHR-de-ul) infarction.

  • myocardial ischemia (mi-o-KAHR-de-ul is-KE-me-uh).

    • Insufficient blood flow to part of the heart muscle.

  • myocarditis (mi-o-kahr-DI-tis).

    • Inflammation of the heart muscle.

  • myocardium (mi-o-KAHR-de-um).

    • The heart muscle.

  • myopathy (mi-OP-uh-the).

    • Any disease of the muscle, such as the heart muscle.

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N to P

  • nitroglycerin.

    • A medication used to treat angina by dilating and relaxing coronary arteries.

  • noradrenaline (nor-uh-dren-uh-lin).

  • norepinephrine (nor-ep-ih-NEF-rin).

    • A hormone secreted by the adrenal gland that raises blood pressure by constricting arteries and increasing heart rate. Also called noradrenaline.

  • obesity.

    • Above-normal body weight, defined as a body mass index of 30 or higher.

  • occlusion.

    • Closure of a passage, such as ducts or blood vessels.

  • open-heart surgery.

    • A surgical procedure in which the chest and heart are opened and operated on while blood flow is diverted through a heart-lung machine. See also heart-lung machine.

  • orthopnea (or-thop-NE-uh).

    • Shortness of breath when lying down, sometimes signaling heart failure.

  • orthostatic hypotension.

    • A drop in blood pressure upon standing, possibly leading to lightheadedness or fainting.

  • pacemaker.

    • An artificial electronic device used to simulate the natural heart rate and rhythm by generating electric impulses. See also sinus node.

  • palpitation.

    • A rapid, thumping or fluttering sensation felt as a result of abnormal beating of the heart.

  • pectoral.

    • Pertaining to the chest.

  • percutaneous transluminal coronary angioplasty (PTCA).

  • pericardial (per-ih-KAHR-de-ul) disease.

    • A general term for diseases of the sac (pericardium) that encases the heart.

  • pericardial effusion (per-ih-KAHR-de-ul uh-FU-zhun).

  • pericardiectomy (per-ih-kahr-de-EK-tuh-me).

    • Removal of the pericardium.

  • pericardiocentesis (per-ih-kahr-de-o-sun-TE-sis).

    • A procedure in which a needle is used to draw fluid from the pericardium.

  • pericarditis.

    • Inflammation of the pericardium.

  • pericardium (per-ih-KAHR-de-um).

    • The membranous sac enclosing the heart.

  • peripheral artery disease.

    • Disease that affects outlying (peripheral) blood vessels, such as those in the arms or legs. Also called peripheral vascular disease.

  • pheochromocytoma (fe-o-kro-mo-si-TOE-muh).

    • A rare tumor that usually originates in the adrenal glands and can cause a sudden and severe increase in blood pressure and heart rate when it produces excess amounts of the hormones adrenaline (epinephrine) and norepinephrine (noradrenaline).

  • phlebitis (fluh-BI-tis).

    •  Inflammation of one or more veins.

  • plaques.

    • Fatty deposits made up of cholesterol and cellular waste products that accumulate in the lining of the arteries, such as the coronary arteries, resulting in narrower, less flexible pathways through which blood can flow.

  • pleura (PLOOR-uh).

    • The membrane that covers both lungs and lines the chest cavity.

  • pleural effusion (PLOOR-ul uh-FU-zhun).

    • Accumulation of excess fluid between the layers of the pleura.

  • positron emission tomography (PET).

    • An imaging technique used for measuring blood flow and the metabolism of body tissues, including the heart and brain.

  • premature ventricular contraction (PVC).

    • A type of early or extra heartbeat (extrasystole) that occurs when the heart's ventricles contract too soon, out of sequence with the normal heartbeat.

  • prothrombin.

    • A chemical substance found in circulating blood that interacts with calcium salts to form thrombin, a step in the process of blood clotting.

  • prothrombin time.

    • A test that measures the activity of certain clotting factors. It's often used to determine whether the dosage of an anticoagulant is correct.

  • pulmonary.

    • Pertaining to the lungs and respiratory system.

  • pulmonary artery.

    • A blood vessel that carries oxygen-depleted blood from the right ventricle to the lungs.

  • pulmonary embolism.

    • A condition in which a clot or other substance lodges in an artery of the lungs.

  • pulmonary function test.

    • A test used to measure the ability of the lungs to exchange air.

  • pulmonary hypertension.

    • Abnormally high blood pressure in the arteries that supply the lungs.

  • pulmonary valve.

    • The valve between the right ventricle and the pulmonary artery.

  • pulmonary valve regurgitation.

    • A defect in the pulmonary valve, allowing blood to leak back into the right ventricle. Also called pulmonary insufficiency.

  • pulmonary valve stenosis.

    • A narrowing or obstruction of the pulmonary valve or artery, impeding the flow of blood to the lungs and causing blood to back up, as behind a dam.

  • pulmonary veins.

    • The blood vessels that carry newly oxygenated blood from the lungs back to the heart.

  • pulse.

    • The expansion and contraction of a blood vessel that corresponds to the beating of the heart.

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Q to S

  • radial pulse.

    • The pulse felt at the wrist.

  • rales.

    • Abnormal breathing sounds, sometimes indicating fluid in the air sacs (alveoli) of the lungs.

  • Raynaud's disease.

    • A circulatory disorder that causes episodes of reduced circulation to the fingers and toes when small vessels suddenly constrict, often in response to cold.

  • regurgitation.

    • In heart disease, the backward (wrong-way) flow of blood through a heart valve that doesn't close tightly.

  • respiration.

    • Breathing.

  • restenosis.

    • Recurrent narrowing or blockage of a blood vessel or valve after treatment, such as balloon angioplasty.

  • resuscitation.

    • The restoration of breathing or a heartbeat after apparent death.

  • revascularization.

    • A procedure, such as coronary bypass surgery, to restore blood flow to tissues.

  • rheumatic fever.

    • An inflammatory illness that may follow streptococcal infection and result in damage to the heart valves.

  • risk factors.

    • Conditions that increase chances of a disease developing. Such factors can be chemical, physiological, behavioral, psychological, genetic, environmental, among others.

  • saphenous vein.

    • Any of several veins in the leg, including the great saphenous vein, the largest vein in the body, extending from the foot to the groin.

  • septal defect.

    • A hole in the wall of the heart separating the two atria (atrial septal defect) or the two ventricles (ventricular septal defect).

  • septum.

    • A wall dividing two cavities or compartments of the body, such as the wall that divides the left and right sides of the heart.

  • sick sinus syndrome.

    • A failure of the sinus node to properly regulate the heartbeat, which can result in periods of either abnormally fast or slow heartbeat.

  • side effects.

    • Unwanted changes produced by medication or other treatment, ranging from minor to life-threatening.

  • sign.

    • An objective manifestation of a condition that's observable, such as rapid speech or fever, rather than reported by the person with the condition. See also symptom.

  • silent heart attack.

    • A heart attack that occurs without the usual signs and symptoms. See also heart attack.

  • silent ischemia.

    • An insufficient supply of blood and oxygen to the heart muscle, but without signs and symptoms, such as chest pain.

  • sinus node.

    • The heart's natural pacemaker, consisting of a group of specialized muscle cells on the wall of the right atrium that regulates the rate and rhythm of the heart.

  • sinus rhythm.

    • A normal heart rhythm in which each heartbeat originates in the sinus node and proceeds normally through the rest of the body's electric conduction system.

  • stable angina.

    • A predictable pattern of cardiac pain caused by ischemia.

  • stasis.

    • Reduced or discontinued blood flow.

  • stenosis.

    • In heart disease, a constriction or narrowing of a heart valve, obstructing blood flow and causing blood to back up, as behind a dam.

  • stent.

    • A rod-like device, sometimes made of expandable metal mesh, used to prop open a narrowed artery; typically used as part of an angioplasty procedure. See also angioplasty.

  • sternum.

    • The breastbone, in the upper central portion of the chest and attached to the ends of the collar bone (clavicle) and the ribs.

  • stethoscope.

    • A device for listening to sounds produced by the body, such as the heart.

  • stroke.

    • A condition commonly produced by a blood clot that lodges in an artery and blocks blood flow to a portion of the brain, producing symptoms ranging from paralysis of limbs and loss of speech to unconsciousness and death.

  • sudden cardiac death.

    • Sudden cessation of the heartbeat and breathing, often from ventricular fibrillation. This is not the same as a heart attack although a heart attack can cause sudden cardiac death or as actual death with loss of brain function, and may be reversible with cardiopulmonary resuscitation or defibrillation.

  • superior vena cava.

    • The large vein that returns blood from the head and arms to the heart.

  • supraventricular tachycardia.

    • Overly rapid heart beat, about 140 to 180 beats per minute, often occurring when the tissue above the ventricles generates impulses at a faster rate than the sinus node.

  • sympathetic nervous system. T

    • he part of the autonomic (automatic) nervous system that controls heart rate, size of blood vessels and many other body functions.

  • symptom.

    • A subjective manifestation of a condition that's reported by the individual and not observable by others, such as sadness. See also sign.

  • syncope (SING-kuh-pe).

    • Loss of consciousness (fainting) because of a sudden but temporary drop in blood supply that inhibits oxygen flow to the brain.

  • syndrome.

    • A specific collection of signs and symptoms that characterize a condition.

  • syndrome X.

  • systole (SIS-to-le).

    • The period of the heartbeat when the heart contracts and pumps blood out to the body.

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  • tachycardia (tak-ih-KAHR-de-uh).

    • An abnormally rapid heart rate (more than 100 beats a minute).

  • tachypnea (tak-ip-NE-uh).

    • Rapid breathing.

  • tamponade.

    • Compression of a part of an organ, such as pericardial tamponade, in which pericardial fluid compresses the heart.

  • thoracic.

    • Having to do with the chest (thorax).

  • thoracotomy (thor-uh-KOT-uh-me).

    • An incision made in the side of the chest between the ribs to access the heart or lungs.

  • thorax.

    • The chest; the portion of the body below the neck and above the diaphragm.

  • thrills.

    • Vibrations that can be felt during an exam, such as over the heart or an aneurysm, resulting from abnormal blood flow.

  • thrombin.

    • An enzyme that's part of the process of blood coagulation.

  • thrombolysis (throm-BOL-ih-sis).

    • The dissolution of blood clots.

  • thrombolytic agent.

    • A medication given intravenously or directly into an artery to dissolve a recent blood clot and restore blood flow to the affected organ.

  • thrombophlebitis (throm-bo-fluh-BI-tis).

    • Inflammation and clotting of blood in a vein.

  • thrombosis.

    • Obstruction of a blood vessel by a blood clot that develops at the location of the obstruction, in contrast to an embolism, which is produced by a clot that travels from another area of the body.

  • thrombotic stroke.

    • A type of stroke that results from impaired blood flow caused by a blockage to one or more of the arteries supplying blood to the brain.

  • thrombus.

    • A blood clot.

  • TIA.

  • tissue plasminogen activator (TPA).

    • A clot-dissolving substance produced in the body or in a laboratory that can be used to treat heart attacks.

  • total cholesterol.

    • The sum of your blood's cholesterol content, including low-density lipoprotein cholesterol, high-density lipoprotein cholesterol and other lipids. See also cholesterol.

  • transient ischemic attack (TIA).

    • A disorder caused by temporary lack of circulation to a part of the brain, usually when an atherosclerotic plaque breaks loose. It differs from a stroke in that the signs and symptoms generally disappear completely within 24 hours. Sometimes referred to as a ministroke.

  • transplantation.

    • The surgical transfer of tissue or an organ, such as the heart, from one person or location in the body to another.

  • tricuspid valve.

    • The heart valve between the right atrium and right ventricle.

  • tricuspid valve regurgitation.

    • Inability of the tricuspid valve to close completely, allowing blood to flow back into the right atrium. Also called tricuspid insufficiency.

  • tricuspid valve stenosis.

    • Narrowing of the tricuspid valve opening, obstructing blood flow from the right atrium to the right ventricle and causing blood to back up, as behind a dam.

  • triglyceride.

    • A form of fat (lipid) that the body makes from sugar, alcohol or excess calories and that may play a role in atherosclerosis.

  • ultrasound scan.

    • A diagnostic technique that uses very high frequency sound waves to produce images of the inside of the human body. Also known as ultrasonography.

  • unicuspid.

    • A heart valve with only one leaflet, instead of the normal two or three.

  • unstable angina.

    • New or increasing chest pain caused by decreased blood flow to the heart.

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V to Z

  • valves.

    • Strong, thin leaflets of tissue attached to the myocardium that act as gateways between the chambers of the heart, allowing blood to flow forward and preventing it from flowing backward. The heart has four valves: aortic, mitral, pulmonary and tricuspid.

  • valvotomy.

    • An older type of open-heart operation to correct a blocked heart valve. Also called valvulotomy.

  • valvular heart disease.

    • General term for diseases of the valves within the heart.

  • valvuloplasty.

    • Reshaping of a heart valve with surgical or catheter techniques.

  • variant angina.

    • Chest pain caused by a spasm of the coronary arteries. See also chest pain.

  • varicose veins.

    • A condition in which defective valves in veins cause the veins to function poorly and become twisted and enlarged.

  • vascular.

    • Pertaining to the body's system of blood vessels.

  • vasculitis.

    • Inflammation of the blood vessels.

  • vasoconstrictor.

    • A chemical, such as a medication or hormone, that causes blood vessels to tighten (constrict).

  • vasodilator.

    • A chemical, such as a medication or hormone, that causes blood vessels to widen (dilate).

  • vasospasm.

    • An abnormal, sudden and involuntary contraction of blood vessels.

  • vasovagal syncope (va-zo-VA-gul SING-kuh-pe).

    • Simple faint, often in response to emotional stimuli.

  • vein.

    • A type of blood vessel that carries deoxygenated blood from various organs or tissues back to the heart.

  • venostasis (ve-no-STA-sis).

    • The slowing of blood flow through the veins of the leg as blood returns to the heart, causing blood to pool and extremities to swell.

  • venous.

    • Pertaining to veins.

  • venous incompetence.

    • A condition in which damaged valves in the veins allow blood to flow backward and pool in the extremities.

  • venous thrombosis.

    • Formation of a blood clot (thrombus) in a vein.

  • ventilation.

    • The exchange of air in and out of the lungs.

  • ventilator.

    • A machine that assists or controls breathing; a respirator.

  • ventricles.

    • The two lower chambers of the heart. The right ventricle receives oxygen-depleted blood from the body and pumps it to the lungs via the pulmonary artery. The left ventricle receives oxygen-rich blood from the lungs via the left atrium and pumps it out to the body through the aorta.

  • ventricular fibrillation.

    • Potentially fatal rapid, uncoordinated and ineffective contractions of the heart, initiated by electrical impulses from the ventricles.

  • venule (VEN-ule).

    • A small vein.

  • vital signs.

    • Measurement of respiration, heart rate and body temperature.

  • wheezing.

    • A whistling sound produced during breathing.

  • X-rays.

    • Electromagnetic waves that penetrate most solid matter. Produced by X-ray machines to create images of internal structures of the body. Also refers to the film images made using this diagnostic technique. Also called roentgen rays.

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The above opinionated views and information serves to educated and informed consumer .  The information provided herein should not be used during any medical emergency or for the diagnosis or treatment of any medical condition. .It should not replaced professional advise and consultation.  A licensed physician should be consulted for diagnosis and treatment of any and all medical conditions 

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