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Heart Disease: How To Reduce The Risk

Heart Disease: Glossary

Thursday, March 29, 2012 - 21:51

Contributing Author: Guy Slowik FRCS

Here are definitions of medical terms related to heart disease.

Angina pectoris: Pressure, tightness, or constricting pain in the chest that occurs due to inadequate blood flow to heart muscle; is usually associated with significant coronary artery disease.

Antioxidants: Substances in fruits, vegetables, whole grains, nuts, and seeds that can help prevent or slow build up of cholesterol and other fat-like substances in the arteries. Vitamins C and E and beta-carotene are all antioxidants that help protect against coronary heart disease.

Antihypertensive medication: A drug that is intended to reduce the blood pressure of individuals with high blood pressure (hypertension).

Atherosclerosis: A narrowing and hardening of blood vessels caused by a build-up of plaque.

Bile acids: Any of several types of acids found in bile (a yellow or greenish alkaline fluid secreted by the liver); it aids in the absorption of fats.

Blood pressure measurements: Measurements of blood pressure, usually expressed as the systolic blood pressure over the diastolic pressure.

Blood vessel: A tube conveying blood; an artery, capillary, or vein.

BMI or body mass index: A formula used to expresses body weight in relation to height. BMI equals weight in kilograms divided by height in meters squared.

Cardiovascular risk factors: Risk factors for cardiovascular disease including hypertension (high blood pressure), cigarette smoking, diabetes, dyslipidemia (abnormal blood lipid levels), older age, gender (men, postmenopausal women), and family history of cardiovascular disease.

Cell membrane (plasma membrane): An extremely thin layer surrounding each cell in the body that only allows certain molecules to pass through it. It consists of three layers, each one molecule in thickness. The inner and outer layers are made of protein, while the middle layer is made up of a double layer of fat molecules.

Cholesterol: A fat-like substance needed for the development body cells. Cholesterol is both produced by the body and found in animal foods. Although it is a necessary substance, if levels of cholesterol are too high it can be deposited on the artery wall, narrowing or blocking blood flow and leading to coronary heart disease.

Congestive heart failure (CHF): A condition in which the heart is weakened and cannot pump efficiently.

Coronary arteries: The arteries (blood vessels) that supply oxygenated blood to the heart.

Coronary heart disease (CHD): A disease develops when one or more of the coronary arteries that supply the blood to the heart become narrower than they used to be. This happens because of a build-up of cholesterol and other substances in the wall of the blood vessel, affecting the blood flow to the heart muscle. Without an adequate blood supply, heart muscle tissue can be damaged

Diabetes: A condition in which the body can't use carbohydrates well. It is caused by a complete (type 1 diabetes) or relative (type 2 diabetes) deficiency of the hormone insulin, which acts as the "key" that allows sugar to enter cells. Without enough insulin, glucose (sugar) remains in the blood and can't enter the cells to provide energy.

Diastolic blood pressure: The lowest level of pressure in the aorta that occurs when the heart is "in between" beats. It ranges between 70-80 mm Hg in healthy adults. Blood pressure is usually read as systolic/diastolic.

Estrogen: The general term for the female sex hormone responsible for developing and maintaining female secondary sex characteristics. Estrogen is a key component of women's monthly menstrual cycles.

Heart attack (myocardial infarction): A sudden closure or blockage of one or more blood vessels to the heart, cutting off the oxygen supply and causing damage to part of the heart. The term specifically refers to death of heart muscle cells, which is usually due to the blockage of a coronary artery.

Heart rate (HR): The number of beats (contractions) of the heart per minute

High-density lipoprotein (HDL): A lipoprotein rich in phospholipids and cholesterol that transports cholesterol to the liver to be broken down. The empty protein "envelope" is then released by the liver into the bloodstream where it can pick up cholesterol from cells and pull away cholesterol from arterial walls.

High density lipoprotein (HDL) cholesterol: A good type of cholesterol that helps the body "scrub" bad types of cholesterol out of blood vessels. High levels of HDL cholesterol are thought to protect the heart because the transported cholesterol is destined for degradation (break-down).

High blood pressure (hypertension): When the pressure, or tension, that blood exerts on walls of the blood vessels as it travels around the body is higher than normal, straining blood vessel walls.

Hormones: Chemical substances formed in one part of the body that are carried in the blood to another part of the body before they act.

Hypercholesterolemia: Abnormally high levels of cholesterol in the blood, commonly referred to as high cholesterol. It is a major risk factor for cardiovascular disease.

Lipids: Substances extracted from animal or vegetable cells; includes fatty acids, glycerides, cholesterol, and "fat-soluble" vitamins A, D, and E, among others.

Low-density lipoprotein (LDL): A "package" that transports cholesterol in the blood to the rest of the body, where it is used in making cell membranes and hormones.

Low density lipoprotein (LDL) cholesterol: A "bad" type of cholesterol that tends to deposit in the artery wall and narrow or block the artery. High levels contribute to atherosclerosis, which clogs arteries and causes heart attacks and strokes.

Maximum heart rate: The fastest your heart can beat, estimated by subtracting your age in years from 220.

Metabolism: The chemical changes in living cells that provide energy for vital processes and activities. Through these chemical changes, new material is incorporated into those living cells.

Monounsaturated fats: Fats found in plant oils such as olive, canola, and peanut oil that are liquid at room temperature but harden in the refrigerator.

Nicotine: A toxic chemical found in cigarette smoke.

Plaques: When used in regard to atherosclerosis, this term describes the yellow and swollen areas of the inner layer of arteries that are thickened by the deposition of fatty substances (lipids and cholesterol) and fibrous tissue.

Polyunsaturated fats: Fats found in plant oils such as safflower, sunflower, corn, and soybean oil that remain liquid even at colder temperatures.

Postmenopausal: After menopause, or the permanent cessation of menstrual periods in women.

Saturated fats: A fatty acid found in animal foods, hydrogenated vegetable oils, and some dairy products.

Soluble Fiber: The type of fiber that can help reduce blood cholesterol levels. Foods such as oat bran, dried beans, and some fruits are high in soluble fiber.

Systolic blood pressure: The peak (highest) pressure that occurs in the aorta when the heart contracts. It averages about 120 mm Hg in healthy adults. Blood pressure is usually read as systolic/diastolic.

Triglycerides: Another type of blood fat that can also block blood vessels and lead to coronary heart disease.

Very low-density lipoproteins (VLDL): A "package" that transports cholesterol and triglycerides in the blood to the rest of the body.

Very low-density lipoprotein (VLDL) cholesterol: A "bad" type of cholesterol that tends to deposit in the artery wall and narrow or block the artery. VLDL also contains triglycerides. High levels contribute to atherosclerosis, which clogs arteries and causes heart attacks and strokes.

Heart Disease: How To Reduce The Risk