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British Cardiac Patients Association - Cardiology terms
Category: Health and Medicine > heart issues
Date & country: 19/11/2007, UK
Words: 152


Allergy
An allergy is when a substance triggers an undesirable or over-reaction in the immune system.

Ambulance
Some ambulance authorities advise that in general one should call for an ambulance if someone:

Anaemia
is a deficiency of red blood cells and/or in their haemoglobin content. Haemoglobin combines reversibly with oxygen and so is important for transporting oxygen in the blood to tissues. Symptoms of anaemia include breathlessness short of breath, pallid complexion, and general lack of energy. These are all caused by the lungs, heart and blood circulation not supplying enough oxygen.

Analgesic
An analgesic is a chemical that reduces pain a painkiller. Pain is a symptom, not a disease. Longterm relief therefore needs treatment of the underlying cause. If the underlying cause cannot be cured, longterm analgesic treatment, eg by drugs, may be needed.

Angina
is a chest pain and may take either of two forms. Stable angina occurs with exercise and subsides after a few minutes of rest. Unstable angina is unpredictable, coming and going even when the patient is resting. Usually the diagnosis is confirmed by an electrocardiograph while the patient does an exercise stress test on a treadmill.

angioplasty catheter
is a long, flexible, slender or very-fine hair-like hollow guide wire that can be fed along an artery. It is used either to help place a balloon or stent in position, or to inject a dye. The cardiologist guides the wire by viewing an X-ray picture. The wire may be made so its natural shape near the end is a slight curve, so by rotating it when an artery junction is reached, it can be guided into the correct route. See Balloon angioplasty, Cardiac catheterisation, and Coronary angioplasty and stent insertion.

Anterior
means situated at or towards the front of the body. Opposite of posterior.

Anticoagulant
Anticoagulants are drugs to reduce or prevent blood coagulating or clotting in blood vessels, or to prevent a thrombosis or embolus causing trouble in the bloodstream.

Antioxidant
An antioxidant is a chemical that protects against damage by free radicals. Equivalently, an antioxidant retards deterioration by oxidation especially of fats, oils, foods, petroleum products, and rubber.

Antiplatelet drugs
help prevent platelets sticking together to form blood clots. Usually they are taken regularly. Such drugs are also given after heart surgery to prevent clots forming. Aspirin is the most widely used antiplatelet drug. See International Normalized Ratio.

Aortic aneurysm
is a sac and/or dilation at some place in the aorta where the aorta artery wall may be weakened or damaged.

Artery
An artery is a blood vessel in which blood flows from the heart to part of the rest of the body. The main artery from the lower left ventricle of the heart is the aorta. The tubes from the lower right of the heart to the lungs are also called arteries. Compare Vein.

Artificial pacemaker
An artificial pacemaker is an electronic device fitted under the chest skin, and that can generate a pulse to control heart rate. It is usually fitted to patients that have a slow heartbeat. Compare Implantable cardio-defibrillator.

Aspirin
in low doses helps to prevent blood clots and to reduce the viscosity of a patient's blood, thus making it flow better and thus reducing the need for higher blood pressure to pump it round the body see Antiplatelet. Both these decrease the risk of a heart attack or stroke. It is important to take the correct dose, usually 75-150 mg daily, as higher doses will not have the desired effect on the blood or heart.

Assertion
Assertion has two meanings. In ordinary usage it refers to a positive statement perhaps made without any evidence or justification.

Atrial fibrillation
is a very common abnormality of heart rhythm about 10% of people over the age of 70 have it. When this occurs, the top chambers of the heart the atria beat in a chaotic fashion, called fibrillation. It may be treated with drugs. For further information see the HRIdocument on Atrial fibrillation.

Atrium
The right atrium is the upper right chamber of the heart, where blood from the body enters before flowing to the right ventricle. Similarly the left atrium is the upper left chamber, where oxygenated blood from the lungs enters and then flows to the left ventricle and thus to the rest of the body. Atria is the plural.

Automatic external defibrillator
, AED. An AED is a machine that gives a controlled electric shock to restart the patient's heart. Ambulances carry an AED. Never give such an electric shock to a patient that has a pulse.

Balloon angioplasty
This is a procedure where an angioplasty catheter is used to place a tiny balloon at a blocked or partially blocked place in an artery. This is then inflated to about 3 mm diameter and it flattens the fatty tissue that was blocking the artery against the artery wall. Usually, a stent is inserted to keep the artery open. The balloon is deflated, and the catheter is withdrawn.

basal metabolic rate
is the rate at which the patient's body is actually producing energy or heat when resting. Measuring core body temperature when a patient is sitting at rest about mid-morning gives a good indication of basal metabolic rate.

Betablocker
Betablockers are drugs that slow the heartbeat, and are used to: relieve angina, reduce high blood pressure, reduce the risk of a further heart attack, and/or regulate the heart rhythm. Some betablockers also relax the blood vessels. For further information see the HRI document on Drugs.

Blood
contains red cells, white cells, plasma, and platelets and other agents that are active in the clotting of blood. Plasma is the clear or yellowish fluid in which corpuscles and cells are suspended; including water, dissolved proteins, salts, sugars, fats, minerals, and vitamins. Red cells have haemoglobin for carrying oxygen. Antibodies for various diseases are proteins in the blood that render the toxins harmless.

Blood analysis
measures the amounts of particular substances in a blood sample in a blood test.

Blood clot
A blood clot is an unwanted lump of blood platelets creating a blockage in an artery or vein. A part of such a clot may break away called an embolus, and if it flows to some other place it may cause further problems there. Deep vein thrombosis means a blood clot in a leg.

Blood pressure
, BP, measures the systolic (highest) and diastolic (lowest) pressure during each heartbeat. For high blood pressure see hypertension.

Blood test
A blood test is an analysis of a small sample of blood to measure the amounts of various chemicals and/or trace elements (see under Minerals) in the blood. Eg patients with unknown cholesterol, or with deep vein thrombosis, or taking Warfarin, are tested to determine the amounts of particular chemicals so that appropriate treatment may be given. Glucose level is measured to check for diabetes. See also blood analysis, Troponins.

Body mass index
, BMI, is the weight in kilograms divided by the square of the person's height in metres. Eg weight 75 kg and height 1.73 m gives 75/(1.73*1.73) equals 25. Excluding people training for sports or ill, for most adults a BMI between 20 and 25 is good, under 20 may be underweight and over 30 is tending towards obesity; but in detail it also depends on whether the person has a small, medium or large frame.

Bradycardia
isan abnormally slow heart rate, usually below 60 beats per minute. Compare Tachycardia.

Breathing
Being breathless, short of breath, may indicate a heart-related condition eg angina; or perhaps anaemia.

British Heart Foundation
, BHF, is a registered charity that plays a leading role in the fight against heart and circulatory diseases. It sponsors research and has produced many booklets. The BCPA and the BHF co-operate.

Carbohydrates
are an important source of energy as food. They are organic compounds containing carbon, hydrogen, and oxygen., usually with the hydrogen and oxygen in about the same ratio as in water. They include sugars such as sucrose; and polysaccharides such as cellulose, glycogen, starch, and various forms of glucose including dextrose. See under Diet and Glycaemic Index.

Cardiac
means relating to the heart. A cardiac patient has a heart disorder; and a cardiac drug is one that stimulates heart muscles.

Cardiac arrest
means the heart has suddenly stopped beating. There is no pulse or breathing. The commonest cause is a chaotic electrical pattern caused by a ventricle or heart muscles being damaged or starved of oxygen. Causes include heart attack, severe blood loss, suffocation, electric shock, anaphylactic shock, drug overdose, and hypothermia.

Cardiac catheterisation
is a procedure where a catheter is passed along arteries to reach a particular coronary artery, and an X-ray video is recorded while a harmless dye is injected, causing the blood flow during each heartbeat to show on the X-ray. This helps detailed diagnosis, pinpointing the sites of blockages, and assessing the seriousness.

Cardiovascular
means relating to the heart and its associated blood vessels, and the circulation of blood.

Catalyst
A catalyst speeds up a chemical process, but usually does not itself get used up or changed chemically. Vitamin B6 is a catalyst for various body metabolism processes.

Cerebrovascular
means of or relating to the blood vessels of the brain and the blood supply to the brain. Cerebrovascular disease means disease of these, eg stroke.

Cholesterol
is a white or pale yellow almost insoluble waxy chemical in animal tissue, blood, bile, and animal fats. It is naturally occurring in the body and needed for normal growth and health. The level of cholesterol can be measured in a blood test.

Circadian rhythm
The normal body temperature varies slightly each 24 hours, rising in the evening and having a minimum about 5am called circadian rhythm. About six hours or more after getting up, ie in the early to mid afternoon, a second slight lowering and minimum occurs, but the temperature does not go as low as at 5am.

Cis and trans
Cis is healthy, trans is not.

Clopidogrel
is an antiplatelet drug used to prevent blood clots from forming. It is typically prescribed to patients who have had a tendency for clots forming in the coronary arteries, or have or have had any of:

Consent
The general legal and ethical principle is that valid consent must ‘usually` be obtained before starting treatment or physical investigation or providing personal care for a patient. This principle reflects the right of a patient to determine what happens to his or her own body and is a fundamental part of good medical practice. Before a ‘medic` can examine or treat a patient, they ‘usually` need his or her consent, given ‘voluntarily`, and the patient must ‘understand` what is involved.

Control group
means a group of patients used as a control in a statistical research experiment or trial eg of a drug or new treatment. They do not receive anything useful but are needed for comparisons. Usually in the trial they receive either a placebo or the standard quantity of an existing standard drug. So the effects of the new alternative drug or treatment on another group of patients can be determined from the comparisons and differences between the observed results of the other group and of the control group. See Double-blind trial.

Coronary
heart disease, CHD, means any combination of disorders of the heart or heart muscles or blood flows.

Coronary
means the blood vessels, nerves and ligaments surrounding a heart.

Coronary arteries
are the system of arteries and their branches that supply the heart muscles. The blood flow to these comes off the aorta and divides into three main arteries at front left, front right and the back, each of which then subdivides through branches to the capillaries.

Coronary artery bypass graft
, CABG, pronounced 'cabbage', is an operation that connects and replumbs coronary arteries to bypass their blocked part or parts. It uses an artery and/or vein from elsewhere in the patient`s body, such as a mammary artery and/or a leg vein. For further information see the HRI document on Coronary artery bypass grafting.

Cyanocobalamin
is Vitamin B12, a complex red compound, occurring in liver. It is formed from carbon, hydrogen, oxygen, nitrogen, phosphorus, and cobalt. It is needed to form haemoglobin for red blood cells to carry oxygen. Shortage gives anaemia. See B12 under Vitamin for foods.

DC cardioversion
uses a small electrical current through the front of the chest and thereby through the heart, which will hopefully bring the heartbeat pattern back to normal. DC means direct current.

Death rates
CHD and strokes are the major causes of disability and premature deaths in the UK.

Deep vein thrombosis
, DVT, means a blood clot in a leg. This can occur after surgery, long bed rest, or pregnancy; or may arise from genetic disorders. It also commonly occurs while or after sitting in a cramped situation and/or where unable to move around especially on long flights or long car journeys.

Dermatitis
is a skin inflammation. Vitamin H prevents it and also helps avoid loss of hair.

Diabetes
, in full Diabetes mellitus, is a common condition where the glucose in the blood is too high because the body cannot use it correctly. It is a disorder of the carbohydrate metabolism giving excessive thirst, and producing urine with an excess of sugar. Healthy people have no sugar in their urine.

Dilate
, dilation, means to make or become larger or widened or enlarged.

Dorsal
means towards or relating to the back or spine. Opposite of Ventral. Also see Posterior.

Double-blind trial
In a double-blind trial patients who have a particular set of conditions are randomly allocated to one of several alternative treatments. One treatment is a placebo that is a tablet that has no active ingredient, thus giving a control group.

Echocardiography
, also called cardiac ultrasound, uses ultrasound waves to give a picture of the inside of the heart, its chambers, valves and its main arteries; but not the coronary arteries, which are too small. An echocardiograph is the picture from the ultrasound showing any abnormalities of the heart valves and the size and shape of the chambers of the heart. For further information see the HRI document on Echocardiography.

Electrocardiograph
An electrocardiograph, ECG, is a record of the electrical activity of the heart, obtained from electrodes connected to the chest. The tiny voltage at each electrode is amplified and connected to a pen producing a wavy line on continuously moving paper, or a similar line on a screen. Thus it shows as graphs the patterns produced at each heartbeat.

Embolus
An embolus or embolism is a part of a blood clot that breaks away and flows in the blood to somewhere else. A pulmonary embolism is such a clot that flows to and stops in a pulmonary artery near the lungs. See Blood clot.

Event monitor
An event monitor takes a continuous recording of the electrical impulses produced by the patient's heart, like an ECG over 24 hours or up to a week. For further information see the HRI document on Event monitoring. Holter monitor means the same.

Exercise
For further information and an Exercise plan after a heart attack see that HRI document. See also under Stress.

Exercise stress test
This is performed to assess how the patient`s heart copes when exercising walking at increasing speeds and perhaps jogging on a treadmill simulating level ground and/or going uphill. During this, an electrocardiograph monitors the heart. This helps diagnose angina, distinguish stable angina from unstable angina, and diagnose other CHD.

Fats
People need some fat for health, else their systems could not process the fat-soluble vitamins A, D, E and K.

Fibrinogen
is a blood-clotting agent. In research trials high levels were found to be statistically associated with an increased risk of adverse heart conditions such as CHD.

Finometer tilt testing
Staff investigate a patient who has blacked out and where the cause cannot be diagnosed by other tests. The staff try to make it happen again under controlled conditions. The patient lies settled in a darkened room on a bed tilted say 45º, while blood pressure, ECG, and perhaps other variables are continuously recorded giving the changing trends on a beat-by-beat basis. Eg when the patient is tilted the patient`s BP changes before he or she feels unwell.

Folic acid
is an essential vitamin needed to avoid anaemia and to control homocysteine.

Glucose
is obtained from sweet foods, and from starchy foods such as bread and potatoes. After a meal the blood glucose level rises and insulin is released into the blood. When the blood glucose falls again during activity, the insulin level also falls. Insulin stops the blood glucose getting too high. See Insulin and Diabetes.

Glycaemic Index
, GI. Beneficial low-GI foods are those digested slowly and which therefore release sugar or glucose gradually into the blood. People thus feel full for longer, maintaining their energy level and metabolism, not feeling so hungry or tired, and hence feeling fewer urges to eat snacks between meals.

Haemoglobin
is the component of blood that carries oxygen from the lungs to other tissues. It combines with oxygen in the lungs where the oxygen concentration is high, and releases it to tissues where the concentration is low. Shortage gives anaemia.

HDL
See HDL under Cholesterol.

Heart
The heart is the organ that pumps blood round the body. It is about the size of a fist, behind the breastbone / sternum, and nearly central but slightly to the left. It has four chambers, four valves to prevent flows in the wrong direction, and muscles. See Atrium, Ventricle, Valve, and Coronary arteries.

Heart attack
A heart attack is the effect of an artery becoming blocked by a clot forming on a narrowed area in a coronary artery. The clot interrupts blood flow to the heart muscles. This may occur suddenly. The patient feels a persistent vice-like central chest pain, which may spread to the left arm and/or the neck and jaw; is breathless; may suddenly faint or collapse; and has rapid or weakening pulse. Unlike stable angina the pain does not ease when the patient is at rest. Some people have a ‘silent` heart attack in which they feel no pain.

Heart rate
means the number of beats per minute. Pulse means the same, from to take the pulse meaning to measure it.

Heart UK
is a charity formed on 27 June 2002 by a merger of the Family Heart Association and the British Hyperlipidaemia Association. It regards itself as The Cholesterol Society.

Heartblock
is a condition in which the electrical impulses from the atria upper chambers of the heart are not transmitted correctly to the ventricles lower chambers of the heart, causing a slow heart rhythm. Some patients do not need much treatment; some have dizziness and/or fainting; and some need drugs or a pacemaker.

highly significant
and denoted by **; and less than 0.1% = 1 in 1000 is even higher and denoted by *** as below. Others sometimes use these terms slightly differently. The criterion of what probability is regarded as significant is ultimately arbitrary. It is preferable for the actual percentage to be given in research results.

Homocysteine
is an amino acid, which is explained under Proteins.

Hormone
A hormone is a chemical produced in an endocrine gland and transported in the blood to a particular tissue where it exerts a particular effect.

HRI
is an abbreviation for the Heart Related Information documents available from the BCPA Head Office; and/or its website www.BCPA.co.uk, then click on Useful documents to download. The reference here is not a hyperlink, so clicking on it will not cause your computer to try to connect, since we do not know where this text may be copied to.

Hypertension
is commonly called high blood pressure, nowadays defined as above 140/85 mm Hg; or over 135/80 if one is diabetic. About one fifth of UK adults have hypertension. Correct treatment of hypertension reduces the risk of a heart attack by about 20% and reduces the risk of stroke by about 40%. Most people with hypertension need tablets to lower their blood pressure. Advice and treatment includes exercise, lifestyle changes, and/or diet changes, as well as drugs.

Hypertrophic
, hypertrophy, is enlargement of an organ or part of an organ resulting from an increase in the size of the cells.

Hypothermia
is too low body temperature, eg below about 35 C (95 F). This can develop slowly over several days in a cold building in winter. Outdoors this is usually from cold, wet and/or wind. Otherwise, eg in older people, it may be related to metabolic rate and/or thyroxine deficiency, as explained under Metabolism. Older people are less able to compensate for temperature changes, and being less sensitive to cold may not initially respond to a slight drop in temperature. The elderly are at risk if they have poor heating or do not switch it on, are thin or frail, have arthritis and/or are not able to get about, are tired, and/or are ill.

Immune system
The immune system is the body mechanism that produces antibodies when any foreign substance has been detected e.g. from taste, touch, breathing, injury, or injection. The result may show as skin reddening, swelling, itching, and/or other allergic reactions.

Implantable cardio-defibrillator
, ICD. An ICD is a small electronic device implanted under the skin that continuously monitors the heart beats, and automatically reverts the heartbeat to a normal rhythm and/or does defibrillation whenever needed. The wire to electrically control the heart may be routed through a vein. This device is often fitted to patients with very fast heart rate, which could cause them to faint or cause their heart to stop beating. Compare Artificial pacemaker.

Inert
substances inactive ingredients that do not have any significant biochemical effect may be added to create a desired volume, taste, consistency, colour, or other properties.

Inferior
means lower in quality or value; or situated beneath or lower in position. Opposite of Superior.

Insulin
is a protein hormone made in the pancreas, which is on the left at about waist level. It controls the concentration of glucose in the blood and helps glucose enter cells for use as fuel. It helps convert sugars in carbohydrates into fuel for the body, and helps convert excess sugars into fat. Deficiency of insulin produces diabetes mellitus. Some diabetics may need insulin, which can be as an injection.

Interact
Interaction between pairs of drugs and/or medicines may occur, meaning one does not produce the desired effects when in the presence of the other, and/or they have undesirable side effects when taken together.

International Normalized Ratio
, INR, is a measure of the clotting property and viscosity of blood in the sense that thick sticky blood is more likely to clot, and thin blood to bleed more. The measure helps decide how much anticoagulant may be needed. It measures the time taken for the blood to clot. The norm value is 1 for a healthy person not on an anticoagulant.

Ischaemic heart disease
, IHD, means an inadequate supply of blood to the heart or a part of the heart muscles, usually from obstructed blood flow. Strictly, ischaemia (or ischemia) means an inadequate supply of blood to an organ or part. IHD is used as the generic term in death statistics.

Lipid
Lipids are any of a group of organic compounds that are esters of fatty acids or closely related substances. Generally they do not dissolve in water. but are soluble in some other organic solvents.

Lipid-lowering agent
means a drug that reduces raised cholesterol. The aim is longterm to reduce the LDL, as explained under Cholesterol and statins. For further information see the HRI document on Drugs.

Living will
This is a statement made by a person before their health deteriorates badly, about what they would like or not like as regards treatment and/or care if their health were to deteriorate. See Consent and Refusal.

Mammary artery
There are two mammary arteries in the breast area left and right, and one may be diverted to make a coronary artery bypass as in a coronary artery bypass graft.

Melatonin
is a hormone produced in the pineal gland. See melatonin under Circadian rhythm.

Metabolism
is the sum total of the chemical processes occurring in the body. This includes all body functions brain, heart, breathing, circulation, digestion, growth, recovery from injury, availability of energy and the right chemicals for everything needing them, and elimination or removal of waste materials and products; as well as usual everyday functions and activities that you might initially think of.

Minerals
are elements explained under Proteins.

Nerves
are fibres that transmit sensory impulses. Sensory nerves transmit impulses representing eg touch, heat, taste, smell, or pain to the spinal chord or brain. Motor nerves transmit impulses representing movement to muscles.

Nitrates
are a group of drugs used to increase the blood supply to the heart muscle, and reduce the number of angina chest pain attacks.

Normal distribution
A normal distribution is a standard mathematical pattern that usually fits the collection of observed values of some variable for a group of patients. Eg the heights, or the systolic blood pressures, of a set of healthy adults of a particular age fit that pattern. It is a typical pattern with known properties. See mean under Average, and Standard deviation.