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Frankfort Regional Medical Center

Cardiovascular Health Glossary

  • Aneurysm —weak, bulging area of an artery that is prone to leak or rupture
  • Angina —chest pain caused by insufficient blood flow to the heart
  • Angiography —diagnostic procedure that produces images of large and medium sized arteries throughout the body
  • Aorta—the largest of the body’s arteries; blood flows from the heart, through the aorta, to the rest of the body
  • Arrhythmias —abnormal pattern of electrical conduction through the heart
  • Artery—blood vessel that carries blood away from the heart
  • Arterioles—branches of smaller arteries that connect the arterial system to the capillaries
  • Atherosclerosis —a disease process characterized by a buildup of fatty deposits and cellular debris inside artery walls that may impede blood flow
  • Atrioventricular (AV) Node—mass of conducting tissue in the lower right atrium that slows the electrical impulses as they pass from the atria to the bundle of His in the ventricles
  • Atrioventricular (AV) Valves—one-way valves located between the atria and ventricles
  • Atria—upper chambers of the heart, which collect blood from the veins
  • Bundle of His—cardiac fibers that conduct electrical impulses from the atria into the ventricles
  • Bradycardia —slow cardiac rate defined as less than 60 beats/minute
  • Capillaries—smallest, most thinly-walled blood vessels; site of oxygen, nutrient, and waste exchange between blood and body tissues
  • Cardiac Circulation—also called coronary circulation; flow of blood through blood vessels supplying the heart muscle
  • Cardiovascular Disease—a collection of conditions that affect the heart and blood vessels
  • Conduction System—network of specialized cardiac tissue that initiates and transmits electrical signals in the heart
  • Coronary Artery Disease (CAD, Coronary Heart Disease)—atherosclerotic blockage of arteries that feed that heart muscle; can lead to angina or heart attack
  • Coronary Sinus—large vein that empties blood from the coronary circulation into the right atrium
  • Diastole—relaxation of the ventricles, during which time they fill with blood
  • Doppler Ultrasound —echocardiographic technique that uses color coding to illustrate the direction and velocity of blood flow through the heart chambers and vessels
  • Duplex Venous Ultrasound—noninvasive vascular study that uses ultrasound technology to visualize the flow of blood in veins
  • Echocardiography —test that using ultrasound technology to produce moving images of chambers, valves, and blood flow of the heart
  • Electrocardiogram —test used to examine the rhythm and electrical activity of the heart
  • Electrophysiology Study —test used to assess serious electrical conduction abnormalities that predispose to life threatening arrhythmias; often used in preparation for the implantation of an artificial pacemaker
  • Embolism—sudden obstruction of a blood vessel by a clot, atherosclerotic plaque, air bubble or other object circulating in the blood
  • Endocardium—innermost layer of the heart; forms continuous extension of endothelium lining the blood vessels
  • Endothelium—innermost layer of blood vessels made of up a single continuous sheet of endothelial cells; initial site of atherosclerosis
  • Fatty Streaks—accumulation of fatty particles in the endothelium
  • Gap Junctions—electrical synapses in the heart muscle
  • Glucose Intolerance—ineffective control of blood sugar levels usually due to insulin resistance; risk factor for type 2 diabetes
  • Heart Attack —also called myocardial infarction; death of heart muscle cells due to a sustained lack of oxygen
  • Heart Failure —a condition in which the heart is incapable of pumping sufficient blood to meet the needs of the body
  • Hemoglobin—protein in red blood cells that allows them to efficiently absorb, transport, and release oxygen throughout the body
  • High-density Lipoproteins—protein-containing particles that carry cholesterol and other fats from blood vessels to the liver; high levels are protective against atherosclerosis
  • Infarction—death of tissue due to sustained lack of oxygen
  • Insulin Resistance—reduced sensitivity to insulin; hallmark of glucose intolerance and type 2 diabetes
  • Intima—inner layer of arteries comprising the endothelium; initial site of atherosclerosis
  • Ischemia—inadequate oxygen supply to a tissue
  • Leukocytes—also called white blood cells; active in the body’s immune system
  • Low-density Lipoproteins—protein-containing particles that carry cholesterol and other fats from the liver to cells throughout the body; high levels contribute to atherosclerosis
  • Myocardium—heart muscle
  • Myocardial Infarction —also called heart attack; death of heart muscle cells due to a sustained lack of oxygen
  • Myocardial Ischemia—inadequate oxygen supply to the myocardium; occurs when the demand for oxygen outstrips its supply
  • Myocardial Perfusion Imaging —imaging procedure that uses radioactive isotopes to assess how well blood is reaching the heart muscle
  • Oxidation—a common chemical reaction involving oxygen; lipids in the endothelium become oxidized as part of the atherosclerotic process
  • Pacemaker—conducting tissue that spontaneously initiates each cardiac cycle, setting the pace of the heart; normally the sinoatrial (SA) node; artificial pacemaker is an implantable device that paces the heart when its natural pacemaker fails
  • Pericardium—membrane surrounding the heart
  • Peripheral Artery Disease (PAD)—atherosclerosis in arteries that carry blood to the legs
  • Plaque—an atherosclerotic lesion
  • Plasma—liquid component of blood; composed primarily of water; contains electrolytes, proteins, nutrients, waste products, hormones, and drugs
  • Platelets—cellular remnants that aid in blood clot formation
  • Pulmonary Arteries—transport deoxygenated blood from the right ventricle to the lungs
  • Pulmonary Circulation—flow of blood from the right ventricle of the heart through the lungs and into the heart’s left atrium
  • Pulmonary Veins—transport oxygenated blood from the lungs into the left atrium
  • Purkinje Fibers—conducting tissue that carries electrical impulses from the bundle of His to the myocardium of the ventricles
  • Red Blood Cells—cells that carry oxygen and carbon dioxide throughout the body
  • Semilunar Valves—located at the base of the pulmonary artery and aorta allowing blood to flow to the pulmonary and systemic circulation respectively; prevent backflow of blood into the ventricles
  • Septum—muscular wall separating the left and right sides of the heart
  • Sinoatrial (SA) Node—also known as a pacemaker; mass of conducting tissue in the upper right atrium that normally sets the pace of the heart
  • Stroke —also known as cerebral infarction or cerebrovascular accident (CVA); death of brain cells due to sustained lack of oxygen
  • Systole—contraction of the ventricles, during which blood is ejected from the heart
  • Systemic Circulation—flow of blood throughout the entire body, with the exception of the lungs
  • Tachycardia—excessively rapid heart rate; usually defined as more than 100 beats/min at rest
  • Thrombosis—development or presence of a blood clot
  • Triglycerides—the chemical form in which most fat is stored in the body
  • Veins—blood vessels that return blood to the heart
  • Venae Cavae—two large veins carrying blood directly to the right atrium of the heart
  • Venography —uses injected dyes and x-rays to examine the interior of veins
  • Ventricle—chamber of the heart that receives blood from the atrium and pumps it into the arteries
  • White Blood Cells—also called leukocytes; active in the body’s immune system