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Heart Failure Glossary

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Ablation
A surgical procedure that completely removes abnormal or dead tissues and creates scar tissue. There are many approaches to ablations, including surgery, chemical destruction or various energy sources.

ACE Inhibitors-(Angiotensin-converting Enzyme)
Medications that are designed to lower blood pressure. They work by relaxing the arteries, capillaries, and veins, allowing blood and oxygen to circulate at a more normal rate.

Acute
Refers to a disease or condition having rapid onset. It is the opposite of chronic.

AF or AFIB
See Atrial Fibrillation

Aldosterone
A steroid secreted by the outer layer (cortex) of the adrenal glands located at the top of each kidney. It functions to increase sodium re-absorption in the kidneys and balance potassium and sodium in the blood.

Alpha Blockers
Drugs that are designed to block Angiotensin II (See Glossary) in arteries to help slow contractions. Alpha Blockers aid in loosening the blood vessels which to lower blood pressure and increase blood flow throughout the heart.

Anemia
If a person is suffering from Anemia, they will have a low red blood cell (RBC) count (For men an average of 5,500,000, for women an average of 4,500,000 per microliter). Thus, less oxygen is carried properly throughout the circulatory system. Often, proper diet with a sufficient amount of protein (approximately 50 grams per day for persons over 4 years of age) can improve a persons RBC count.

Aneurysm
An expansion of a blood vessel. When associated with Heart Failure, an aneurysm occurs on the LV resulting in a scar. If the scarred area becomes thin and begins to inflate with each Heartbeat, an aneurysm may occur. Previous Heart damage coupled with the aneurysm causes the Heart to have to pump more rigorously.

Angina
When referring to Heart Failure, a pain or pressure in the chest caused by insufficient blood flow and oxygenation to the heart muscle.

Angiogram
A radiographic picture that shows the size, shape and location of the heart. There are three types of angiograms-Aortic (The body’s largest artery), Cardiac (For the Heart), and Cerebral (For the brain).

Angiotensin
When renin is produced by the kidneys, contraction of the arteries occurs.

Angiotensin II
Powerful action that stimulates the contraction of the arteries (vasopressor) and stimulator of a hormone (aldosterone) that regulates the salt and water production and secretion.

Antioxidant
any substance that helps relieve the bodyís cells of oxygen damage (free radicals) and keeps them healthy. Antioxidants can be found in many foods and beverages such as apples, broccoli, or green tea.

Aorta
The largest artery in the body. It is the main channel for delivering oxygenated blood throughout the entire body.

Aortic Valve
One of the four valves in the heart. It is located at exit of the left ventricle of the heart where the aorta (the largest artery) begins. The aortic valve allows blood from the left ventricle to be pumped into the aorta but prevents blood once it is in the aorta from returning to the heart.

Apex Beat
Apex, when referring to the heart, pertains to the top of the heart or lungs. The Apex Beat refers to the portion of the breathing cycle (heartbeat) that the heart or lungs expand.

Arrhythmia
An irregular Heartbeat. Tachycardia arrhythmia occurs when the Heart Rate is more than 100 Beats per Minute (BPM). Bradycardia occurs when the Heart Rate is less than 60 BPM. Patients complain of a fluttering sensation in their chest.

Arteries
The blood vessels that transport blood from the heart to the rest of the body. The Aorta (See-Aorta) is the largest artery in the body. There are two types of arteries:

  1. The arteries that carry blood form the right ventricle (RV) to the lungs
    (called the Pulmonary Arteries)
  2. The arteries that carry blood from the left ventricle (LV) to the rest of the body
    (called the Systemic Arteries).

Atrial Fibrillation (AF or AFib)
Brisk, irregular electrical activity in the upper chambers of the heart (right or left atrium). Patients complain of a fluttering sensation in their chest.

Atrophy
A shrinking or decrease in the size of an organ or tissue. It can be caused by extreme inactivity, malnutrition, or ischemia. When linked to Heart Failure atrophy occurs where there is an insufficient amount of oxygen and blood to meet the demands of the heart muscle (Ischemia).

Autonomic Nervous System (ANS)
Controlled by the brain and the spinal cord. The ANS is responsible for controlling involuntary body functions (Digestion of food, processing of urine, etc.)

Beta Blockers-(Beta-adrenergic Blocking Agents)
Used to prevent chest pain (angina), alleviate high blood pressure (hypertension) and in some cases, to prevent further heart attacks.

BMI-(Body Mass Index)
An index that correlates body weight to height. The body   mass index (BMI) is found by dividing a person's weight in kilograms (kg) by their height in meters (m) then multiplied by two.

BNP-(Brain Natriuretic Peptide)
A blood test to help doctors evaluate cardiac function. This amino acid/peptide is secreted by the ventricles and is elevated in patients with aneurysms or lesions in the Left Ventricle (LV). The more severe the damage to the LV, the higher the levels of BNP. Normal BNP levels range from 0-99 picograms per liter. Abnormal levels of BNP range from 100-900 picograms per liter, depending on the severity of Heart Failure (HF).

Bradycardia
An abnormally slow heart rate or pulse generally less than 60 beats per minute (BPM). A normal heart rate for a healthy adult is approximately 60-100 beats per minute. Factors that affect Heart Rate are your age, weight, and present activity (movement or rest).

CABG
A tube that is placed in the aorta that allows blood to pass over an obstruction in the coronary artery.

Cardiac Arrest
When blood circulation stops suddenly, causing the blood supply to quit flowing through the Heart and circulatory system. Cardiac Arrest can result in instant death. In the US, about 1000 people die daily as a result of Cardiac Arrest.

Cardiac Resynchronization Therapy - (CRT)
Also referred to as Biventricular Pacing. This involves surgically implanting a battery operated device under the skin. The purpose of the biventricular pacemaker is to synchronize heart beats to a normal, healthy pace through electrical stimulation.

Cardio
Pertaining to the heart.

Cardiomegaly
Enlargement of the heart.

Cardioversion
The restoration of normal sinus rhythm by medications or electrical means. Electrical cardioversion is the delivery of electrical current sent through the chest wall (Often seen on medical drama TV shows).

Carotid Endarterectomy
A surgical technique involving clearing obstructions from the carotid arteries which supply blood to the neck and head.

Catheter Ablation
An ablation is a surgical procedure that completely removes abnormal or dead tissue and creates scar tissue. There are many approaches to ablating tissue, including surgery, chemical destruction or various energy sources. A catheter ablation is when a tube is placed into the body to remove abnormal or dead tissue from a specified area of the heart.

Catheterization
Insertion of a catheter into any of the four chambers of the heart (See-Left Atrium, Right Atrium, Left Ventricle, Right Ventricle) or large blood vessels for diagnosis, assessment of abnormalities, treatment, and/or evaluation.

CCU-(Coronary Care Unit)
The area of the hospital where a patient with heart disease is placed while under critical care and requires intense supervision 24 hours a day.

Cholesterol
A group of fats found in the bloodstream and all cells in the body. There are two types of cholesterol-HDL and LDL. Contrary to popular understanding, cholesterol can be considered good or bad.

Chronic
When a disease or symptom has a slow progression and there is little change present. The opposite of acute.

Clot
A mass with a jelly-like or semi-solid consistency. It usually is referred to as a blood clot.

Coagulation
General reference pertaining to blood transforming from a liquid form to a semisolid state, as when a wound is healing.

Concomitant
Taking place at the same time. When referring to treatment, as in surgery, it is the performance of more than one treatment during the same procedure.

Congenital
Present at birth. Congenital diseases can be associated with infections or injuries that the mother contracts during pregnancy. Congenital diseases can also be due to hereditary factors.

Congestive
An excessive amount of blood collected in any tissue or organ.

Congestive Heart Failure
Commonly called Heart Failure. The heartís inability to sufficiently fill with blood OR itís inability to distribute a sufficient amount of blood throughout the body. Symptoms include shortness of breath, even when lying down, and general tiredness and weakness.

Contraction
When referring to blood pressure, the contraction (SEE-Systolic) occurs following each dilation (See-Dilation). During contraction the blood is driven onward from the chambers of the heart to the body.

Coronary
A Latin derivative meaning to encircle. When referring to the Heart, it is referring to the blood vessels and arteries that surround the heart and supply blood to the heart muscle.

Coronary Sinus
The channel that receives the cardiac veins from the heart. The coronary sinus opens into the right atrium (RA).

CRT-(Cardiac Resynchronization Therapy)
Also referred to as Biventricular Pacing. This involves surgically implanting a battery operated device under the skin. The purpose of the biventricular pacemaker is to synchronize heart beats to a normal, healthy pace through electrical stimulation.

Cryoblation
A procedure involving insertion of a tube below 0°C. This procedure is used currently for treating irregular electrical activity in the upper chambers of the heart (Atrial Fibrillation).

Cryosurgery
The use of exceedingly cold (cooling abilities to -130° C) devices to destroy abnormal or dead tissue in any number of organs, including, but not limited to the heart

CT Scan
A computerized X-ray. A CT Scan can produce pictures from several x-rays simultaneously, giving a real-time image of a particular area in the body.

Diastolic
The bottom number on the blood pressure reading which is the usual rhythmic dilation, following each contraction (systole), during which the heart muscle relaxes and the chambers of the heart fill with blood.

Dilation
When referring to blood pressure, the dilation (See-Diastolic) occurs following each contraction (See-Contraction). During dilation the heart muscle relaxes and the chambers of the heart fill with blood.

Diuretic
A diuretic increases urine output and urination frequency. Often Heart patients are given a diuretic to alleviate water retention and bloating.

Dyspnea
When breathing is labored. This is normal with athletic activity or excessive work, but not with minimal physical activity or when motionless. It is generally associated with Heart Failure.

Echocardiogram

A test that shows a picture of the heart’s movements. It shows the heart’s four chambers and the heart valves. This test is administered to evaluate the overall performance of the heart. The patient feels no discomfort, as this test is non-invasive.

Ejection Fraction
The amount of blood that is pumped out of the ventricles during a breathing cycle. Generally 30 percent of the blood is pumped out during a normal heart’s breathing cycle. In a person experiencing Heart Failure, the amount of blood exiting the ventricle can drop substantially.

EKG - (Echocardiogram)
A test that measures the electrical activity in the heart. Electrical sensor devices are placed in strategic positions on the body. This test is used to evaluate heart conditions. The patient feels no discomfort, as this test is non-invasive.

Electrophysiologist
Specializes in the heart’s electrical system. They are specifically trained in arrhythmias such as Atrial Fibrillation.

Endocardial
Refers to being within the heart.

Epicardial
Refers to the front portion of the esophagus extending from the diaphragm to the stomach.

Fibrosis
The restoration or replacement of inflamed tissues by connective tissues to form scar tissue. In reference to Heart Failure, it generally refers to scars on the lungs (Pulmonary).

Heart Attack
Myocardial infarction. The failure of living heart muscle as a result of coronary artery obstruction.

Heart Chambers
There are four chambers of the heart; the left and right atriums (upper chambers) and the left and right ventricles (lower chambers).

Heart Disease
Any abnormal or diseased condition of the coronary arteries, heart valves, myocardium, or electrical conduction system of the heart

Heart Failure
The heart’s inability to sufficiently fill with blood OR it’s inability to distribute a sufficient amount of blood throughout the body. Symptoms include shortness of breath, even when lying down, and general tiredness and weakness.

Hemorrhage
Extreme loss of blood from any area of the body.

Hypertension
Medical term that refers to High Blood Pressure. Normal Blood Pressure (BP) is approximately 120/80 for healthy adults. Stage 1 High Blood Pressure is between 140/90-150/99. Stage 2 high Blood Pressure is 160/110+. (See Diastolic & Systolic).

Hypotension
Medical term that refers to Low Blood Pressure. Normal Blood Pressure (BP) is approximately 120/80 for healthy adults. (See Diastolic & Systolic).

ICD-(Implantable Cardiac Defibrillator)
A device that is designed to identify,  monitor, and remedy certain types of abnormal heart rhythms.

Inotropes
An agent that forces the increase of heart muscle contraction.

Ischemic
A short-term lack of blood flow through an artery or throughout the circulation. When linked to Heart Failure there is an insufficient amount of oxygen and blood to meets the demands of the heart muscle.

Jugular Veins
Veins located on the sides of the neck that return blood to the heart from the head and neck.

Left Atrium
The left upper chamber of the heart. The left atrium receives oxygenated blood from the lungs through the pulmonary veins.

Left Ventricle
The left lower chamber of the heart that receives blood from the left atrium and pumps it into the circulation through the aorta.

Lesion
A wound or injury. There are many types of lesions. They are generally categorized by size and cause. When associated with heart failure, lesions may refer to damage to the heart muscle or valves.

Lipids
Fats and fatty acids found in the blood stream.

Malignant
When a disease or medical condition is displaying rapid progression.

Minimally Invasive
Utilization of small incisions, ports, or needles to gain access to various areas of the body to perform surgical procedures.

MRI-(Magnetic Resonance Imaging)
Uses powerful magnetic fields to create images of tissues and organs. During an MRI the patient is laid flat on their back and placed in a human sized tunnel with earphones (to drown out the loud noise, but there is no discomfort or physical stress associated with the test)) and instructed to lie perfectly still. An average MRI takes approximately 30-90 minutes, depending on the area of the body being imaged. A patient that has any metal from previous surgical procedures (As placement of pins or shrapnel) in their system should not take an MRI.

Mitral Valve
The valve that closes the orifice between the left atrium (RA) and the left ventricle (LV) during breathing.

Myocarditis
Inflammation of the heart muscle usually caused by a virus or infection such as rheumatic fever.

Myocardium
The center layer of the walls of the heart, commonly called the cardiac muscle.

Nitroglycerin
Used to combat Congestive Heart Failure, angina, pulmonary edema, or treatment after a heart attack (See Glossary). It is designed to alleviate chest pain and relax the vascular muscle. Common Nitroglycerins on the market are Deponit, Minitran, Nitrek, and Nitrol.

Orthopnea
Heavy breathing that occurs when lying down and is generally relieved after getting up. This generally occurs in Heart Failure patients that are in Classifications III or IV.

Oxygenate
To supply with oxygen.

Pacemaker
Conventional pacemakers are used to correct slow heartbeats through leads (wires) that send electrical impulses to 1 or 2 chambers of the heart (generally the right atrium and the right ventricle).

Paroxysmal
When related to Atrial Fibrillation, a recurrent or intensification of the disease, it is self-terminating and usually lasts less than a week.

Paroxysmal Nocturnal Dyspnea
Sudden shortness of breath that usually occurs during sleep. It can be caused by sleep apnea or left ventricular (LV) failure.

Peripheral Edema
Buildup of fluid in the third space, which includes cavities in the abdomen (peritoneal cavity) or in the lungs (pleural cavity).

Permanent
When pertaining to Heart Failure, permanent refers to enduring or lasting.

Persistent
Patient is in Heart Failure until treatment is done to restore normal sinus rhythm.

Placebo
A fake pill or inactive substance, usually a water pill, given in place of authentic medication. Placebos are frequently administered to satisfy a patient’s demand for medication.

Prosthesis
A substitution or a replacement for a missing or damaged body part.

Pulmonary Artery
The artery that transmits blood from the right ventricle to the lungs.

Pulmonary Edema
Buildup of fluid in the lungs.

Pulmonary Embolism
An abrupt barrier occurring in a blood vessel. The barrier may be caused by various factors such as a blood clot or an air bubble. When pertaining to the lungs (pulmonary); it refers to the artery (or one of its branches-see Pulmonary Artery) that transmits blood from the right ventricle to the lungs.

Pulmonary Valve
The valve that connects the pulmonary artery to the right ventricle. It prevents blood from returning into the right ventricle.

Pulmonary Vein
One of the four veins that transports blood from the lungs to the left atrium

Radiofrequency
A non-surgical procedure that uses heat to destroy a certain area of dead or affected tissue. The use of Radiofrequency allows surgeons to identify the exact area of affected tissue. It causes little or no discomfort.

Renin
An enzyme produced by the kidney that eventually stimulates arterial constriction and the secretion of the hormone aldosterone. In some forms of high blood pressure (hypertension), the renin levels are increased causing elevated blood pressure and production of aldosterone.

Right Atrium
The right upper chamber of the heart. The right atrium receives blood from the entire body (except the Lungs).

Right Ventricle
The right lower chamber of the heart that receives blood from the right atrium and pumps it into the lungs via the pulmonary artery.

SCA-(Sudden Cardiac Arrest)
When the heart suddenly stops working for no apparent reason

Statins
A drug that is designed to lower fat or fatty acids (lipids) in the blood stream. (Lipitor and Zocor are popular statins).

Stent
A device that is used to hold tissue in place. It is generally a metallic mesh placed in the coronary artery to help keep blood vessels open so that blood may flow at a normal rate. There are currently three types of stents on the market-metallic mesh, dissolvable, and drug-coated.

Sternotomy
An operation that involves cutting through the sternum. The sternum is the long, flat bone that connects the ribs in the frontal potion of the body.

SVT-(Supraventricular Tachycardia)
An unusually fast heart rate (See-Tachycardia) originating from above the ventricles. Electrical impulses are quickly sent throughout the heart during suprventricular tachycardia.

Systolic
The top number on the blood pressure reading which is the usual rhythmic contraction, following each dilation (diastole) during which the blood is driven onward from the chambers of the heart to the body

Systolic Heart Failure
This occurs when the blood that is normally driven onward from the chambers of the heart to the body is not flowing properly because of an obstruction or the heart is not pumping to its fullest potential.

Tachycardia
An abnormally rapid heart rate or pulse greater than 100 beats per minute (BPM). A normal heart rate for a healthy adult is approximately 60-100 beats per minute. Factors that affect Heart Rate are your age, weight, and present activity (movement or rest).

Thoracic
Pertaining to the thorax which is the part of the body that contains the lungs and the heart. Also commonly referred to as the chest.

Toxicity
The extent that something is poisonous.

Tricuspid Valve
The valve that closes the space between the right atrium (RA) and the left ventricle (LV) during rhythmic contraction (ventricular systole), when the blood is driven onward from the chambers of the heart to the body.

Vascular
Pertaining to the arteries, capillaries, and veins. These blood vessels carry blood to and from the heart and contribute to the regulation of blood pressure.

Vasodilator
A drug that that expands the blood vessels to allow blood to flow more freely.

This information is not intended to replace the advice of a doctor. The Heart Failure Center does not provide medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. The contents of The Heart Failure Center Site ("Content") are for informational purposes only. The Content is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition or any symptoms you may have. If you think you may have a medical emergency, call your doctor or 911 immediately.

 

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