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Glossary of Heart Disease Terms

Angina -- Discomfort, pain, or pressure in the chest caused by an inadequate blood supply to the heart. Pain may also be felt in the neck, jaw, or arms.

Angiogram (cardiac catheterization) -- A test used to diagnose heart disease. During the procedure a catheter is inserted into an artery, usually in the leg, and contrast dye is injected into the arteries and heart. X-rays of the arteries and heart are taken.

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Anticoagulant -- A medication that prevents blood from clotting; used for some people with a history of heart disease, stroke, or blood clots.

Atherosclerosis ("hardening of the arteries") -- The process whereby abnormal deposits of fats, cholesterol, and plaque build up, leading to coronary artery disease and other cardiovascular problems.

Beta-blocker -- A drug that slows heart rate, lowers blood pressure, controls chest pain, and helps reduce the risk of heart attack in patients with a history of heart attack.

Calcium-channel blocker -- A drug that lowers blood pressure and and may slow heart rate to control chest pain. The drug works by blocking the uptake of calcium in the cells.

Cardiac Catheterization (angiogram) -- A test used to diagnose heart disease. During the procedure a catheter is inserted into an artery, usually in the leg or arm, and contrast dye is injected into the arteries and heart. X-rays of the arteries and heart are taken.

Catheter -- A slender, hollow, flexible tube.

Coronary artery disease -- A buildup of fatty material in the wall of the coronary artery that causes narrowing of the artery.

Dyspnea -- Shortness of breath.

Electrocardiogram (ECG, EKG) -- The EKG records on graph paper the electrical activity of the heart detected through small electrode patches attached to the skin.

Heart attack (myocardial infarction) -- Permanent damage to the heart muscle caused by a lack of blood supply to the heart for an extended time period. The severity of damage varies from mild to severe.

Heart-lung (cardiopulmonary) bypass machine -- A machine that oxygenates the blood and circulates it throughout the body during heart bypass surgery.

Heart surgery -- Heart surgery is any surgery that involves the heart or heart valves.

Ischemia -- Condition in which not enough oxygen-rich blood is supplied to the heart muscle to meet the heart's needs.

Off-pump heart surgery -- Heart surgery done without the use of the cardiopulmonary bypass machine.

Plaque -- Deposits of fats, inflammatory cells, proteins, and calcium along the lining of arteries, caused by atherosclerosis. The plaque builds up and narrows the artery.

WebMD Medical Reference

Reviewed by Thomas M. Maddox, MD on May 12, 2012

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