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Glossary

A
Angina

Chest pain that feels like a pressure or squeezing in the chest. Angina may be associated with heart attack, but it can also be due to many other conditions or factors, such as overexertion.

Atherosclerosis

A condition in which an artery wall thickens as the result of a build-up of plaque, which consists of fatty materials such as cholesterol.

Atria

Hollow heart chambers located at the top of the heart on the right and left sides. Atria work with the lower heart chambers, or ventricles, to pump blood through the heart.


B
Blood clot

A blood mass that forms when components of blood, such as blood platelets and proteins, stick together.


C
Cholesterol

A substance found in certain foods such as eggs, meat, and dairy products. There are two types of cholesterol: "bad" cholesterol, or low-density lipoprotein (LDL), increases plaque deposits inside the arteries. "Good" cholesterol, or high-density lipoprotein (HDL), helps carry fat away from artery walls.

Coronary Arteries

Blood vessels that supply the heart with blood, oxygen, and vital nutrients.

Coronary Artery Disease (CAD)

Also referred to as coronary heart disease. This condition is a result of the build-up of plaque, a material made of fat, cholesterol, and other substances found in the blood. When plaque builds up over time, it can narrow the arteries, reducing normal blood flow to the heart. This narrowing can prevent the heart from pumping blood efficiently, which may cause many symptoms, such as chest pain. If not treated, CAD can lead to serious heart conditions, including heart attack.

C-reactive protein

A protein present in the blood that rises during episodes of inflammation, such as those associated with coronary artery disease. High levels of C-reactive protein can indicate an increased risk for CAD.


D
Defibrillator

An electronic device that applies an electric shock to the heart to help restore it to its normal rhythm.

Diabetes

A disease in which the body doesn't make enough insulin or use it properly, leading to a high level of glucose (sugar) in the blood.


E
Echocardiogram

The use of ultrasound to create a picture of the size and shape of your heart and review how well it's working. An echocardiogram can detect restricted blood flow in areas of the heart.

Electrocardiogram/electrocardiograph

This device measures the electrical activity of the heart, how fast the heart beats and whether the heart rhythm is regular or irregular. It is used during a stress test to help detect whether CAD may be likely.

Exercise stress test

A diagnostic test that helps detect potential problems that may be due to CAD. Your heart rate is measured while you walk or run on a treadmill or pedal a stationary exercise bike. When you exercise, your heart works harder and beats faster. This test can show potential signs of CAD, including abnormal changes in heart rhythm, electrical activity, heart rate, and blood pressure.


H
Heart attack

Occurs when a blood clot forms in an artery, cutting off blood and oxygen to the heart muscle, resulting in damage to that portion of the heart. Symptoms may include chest pain, nausea, sweating, shortness of breath, palpitations, vomiting, and dizziness.

Heart failure

Occurs when the heart can't pump adequate blood to the body due to CAD. Symptoms include shortness of breath, fatigue that increases with activity, and swelling in the feet, ankles, legs, and abdomen.

High blood pressure

Also known as hypertension, high blood pressure is when the pressure of the blood pumping through arteries is consistently too high.


O
Omega-3 fatty acids

Polyunsaturated fatty acids found especially in fish, fish oils, green leafy vegetables, and some vegetable oils. Foods that are a good source of omega-3 fatty acids may reduce the risk of heart disease.


P
Pharmacologic stress test

A diagnostic test used for people who are unable to exercise on a treadmill. A medical technician will inject a drug that makes the heart respond as if the person is exercising.

Plaque

A substance that is made up of cholesterol and other materials that deposit on the artery walls and can build up over time, thickening the walls. Plaque may also narrow the artery wall, constricting the delivery of oxygen, blood, and nutrients to the heart.


R
Radioactive isotope imaging tracer

Substances used for different medical procedures to help detect abnormalities in the body. For example, a tracer is used during myocardial perfusion imaging, which shows the blood flow to the heart and helps doctors see whether a patient has heart disease.

Radioactive tracing material

Substances that are injected into the bloodstream that show the blood flow through vessels and into the heart. This helps a doctor determine if a person has narrowed or blocked coronary arteries.


S
Stress test

The most common type of test to diagnose coronary artery disease. There are several types, including exercise stress tests and pharmacologic stress tests. Either by exercising on a treadmill or using a chemical injection, a patient’s heart is stressed and monitored to detect any signs of CAD.

Stroke

An interruption of the blood supply to any part of the brain, caused by a blood clot. Strokes can cause damage and/or death to a portion of the brain.


T
Trans fatty acids

Manufactured fats formed during the hydrogenation of vegetable oils and linked to an increase in cholesterol.

Triglycerides

The chemical form in which most fat exists in food as well as in the body. High triglycerides are linked to an increased risk for atherosclerosis.


U
Ultrasound

A noninvasive technique that involves forming a two-dimensional image used for the examination and detection of physical abnormalities. An echocardiogram uses ultrasound to detect restricted blood flow in areas of the heart.


V
Ventricles

Two large right and left hollow chambers at the bottom of the heart, which collect and expel blood received from an atrium. Atria work with the ventricles to pump blood through the heart.