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Heart Failure

Heart Failure: Glossary

Tuesday, April 10, 2012 - 09:43

Contributing Author: Guy Slowik FRCS

Here are definitions of medical terms related to heart failure.

Angina: A condition in which the heart does not get enough oxygen, resulting in chest pain and a feeling of suffocation.

Arrhythmia: Any rhythm that is not the normal rhythm of the heart; it may mean a slow or fast heart rate or an irregular rhythm.

Cardiomyopathy: Any disease that affects the structure and function of the heart.

Cholesterol: A type of fat normally present in the bloodstream. A high level is directly related to the risk of developing heart disease.

Diastolic heart failure: Heart failure that occurs because the heart is unable to relax normally between each contraction. Diastole is the period in the pumping cycle when the heart rests between contractions.

Echocardiogram: A noninvasive test that uses sound waves to produce images of the heart on a monitor.

Edema: An abnormal accumulation of fluid in the body's tissues.

Electrocardiogram (ECG or EKG): A recording of the electrical activity of the heart.

Ejection fraction: This is the amount of blood pumped out of the heart with each beat. It is expressed as a percent. Normal value is 45-55%. It can be measured by special tests.

Endocarditis: A condition that affects the lining of the heart's chambers and the heart valves.

Orthopnea: A condition in which a person must sit or stand in order to breathe deeply or comfortably.

Palpitations: Awareness of the heart beating; the heartbeat may feel fast, slow, forceful, or irregular.

Plaque: A buildup of fatty substances within the blood vessels that can cause them to narrow, restricting blood flow.

Potassium: An element necessary to the lives of all plants and animals; in humans, one of its roles is to help regulate muscle contraction.

Pulmonary edema: An accumulation of fluid in the tissues of the lungs.

Rheumatic fever: An inflammatory disease that can develop as a delayed reaction to an infection of the upper-respiratory tract.

Right-sided heart failure: Swelling in the body, usually the legs and abdomen, that results from failure of pumping action of the right ventricle.

Sputum: Material coughed up from the lungs and expelled through the mouth.

Systolic heart failure: Heart failure that occurs because the heart is unable to contract as powerfully as it used to. Systole is the period in the pumping cycle when the heart contracts.

Tachycardia: The term used to describe a rapid heartbeat of greater than 100 beats per minute.

Ventricle: One of the two lower chambers of the heart (the left ventricle and the right ventricle), which pump blood out of the heart and into the arteries.

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