Glossary of Terms
Glossary of Terms (Cardiovascular/Heart Care)
Angina: symptoms that occur when the heart muscle can’t get enough oxygen-rich blood. Often appears as pressure, tightness, aching, or pain in the chest, arm, neck, or jaw.
Angiogram: a special x-ray of a blood vessel.
Aorta: the body’s largest artery. It carries blood from the heart to the rest of the body.
Arrhythmia: an abnormal heartbeat.
Arteriosclerosis: when artery walls thicken and lose elasticity. Sometimes called “hardening of the arteries.”
Artery: a blood vessel that carries blood from the heart to the body.
Atherosclerosis: the buildup of plaque within artery walls.
Atria (singular: atrium): the heart’s two upper chambers. They receive blood from the lungs and body.
Balloon angioplasty: a procedure that uses a balloon-tipped catheter to open an artery narrowed or blocked by plaque.
Blood (serum) cholesterol: a fatty substance produced by the body and carried in the blood. Can build up within artery walls as plaque.
Blood pressure: a measurement indicating the force of blood as it presses against artery walls while moving through vessels.
Blood vessels: tubes that carry blood throughout the body. Arteries and veins are blood vessels.
Bypass: a new pathway for blood flow.
CABG (pronounced “cabbage”): another term for coronary artery bypass graft surgery.
Cardiomyopathy: weakening of, or structural change in, the heart muscle that reduces the heart’s ability to pump.
Catheter: a long, thin, flexible plastic tube.
Coronary arteries: blood vessels that wrap around the heart and supply the heart muscle with oxygen-rich blood.
Coronary artery disease: blocked or narrowed coronary arteries.
Diastolic pressure: the pressure of blood against the inside of artery walls between heartbeats. Appears as the bottom number in a blood pressure measurement.
Electrocardiogram: a test that records the way electrical signals move through the heart. Often called an ECG or EKG.
Heart attack: an event that occurs when oxygen-rich blood can’t get to part of the heart muscle. Can cause permanent damage.
Hypertension: another word for “high blood pressure.”
Myocardial infarction: death of heart muscle tissue. Also known as a heart attack.
Plaque: a deposit of fatty material (including cholesterol) within artery walls.
Pulmonary artery: the large artery that carries blood from the heart to the lungs to get oxygen.
Stenosis: the narrowing of an artery, often caused by plaque buildup.
Stroke: a blockage or rupture in a blood vessel that cuts off blood flow to part of the brain. May cause brain damage. Also known as a brain attack or CVA (cerebrovascular accident).
Systolic pressure: the pressure of blood against the inside of artery walls during a heartbeat (when the heart pumps). Appears as the top number in a blood pressure measurement.
Ultrasound: a test that uses sound waves to create images of structures inside the body.
Valves: “doorways” that open and close to let blood move and prevent backflow of blood. There are valves between the heart’s chambers.
Vein: a blood vessel that carries blood from the body back to the heart.
Ventricles: the heart’s two lower chambers. They pump blood to the body and lungs.