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Glossary of Terms (Cardiovascular)

  • Angina: symptoms that occur when your heart muscle can’t get enough blood. Often appears as pressure, tightness, aching, or pain in your chest, arm, neck, or jaw.

  • Angiogram: a special X-ray of a blood vessel.

  • Aorta: your body’s largest artery. It carries blood from the heart to the rest of your 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 your heart to your body.

  • Atherosclerosis: the buildup of plaque within artery walls.

  • Atria (singular: atrium): the heart’s two upper chambers. They receive blood from your 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 soft, fatty substance found in foods and produced by your body. It is is carried in your bloodstream. 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 your 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.

  • Cardiac arrest: sudden loss of heart function, caused by a malfunction in the heart's electrical system. This is different from a heart attack. 

  • Cardiomyopathy: weakening of, or structural change in, the heart muscle that reduces your heart’s ability to pump.

  • Catheter: a long, thin, flexible plastic tube.

  • Coronary arteries: blood vessels that wrap around your heart and supply your heart muscle with 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 your heart. Often called an ECG or EKG.

  • Heart attack: an event that occurs when blood can’t get to part of your 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 your heart to your 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 your 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 your 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 your body back to your heart.

  • Ventricles: the heart’s two lower chambers. They pump blood to the body and lungs.

Online Medical Reviewer: newMentor board-certified, academically affiliated clinician
Online Medical Reviewer: Petersen, Sheralee, MPAS, PA-C
Last Review Date: 3/15/2013
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