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Heart Failure Health Center

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A Glossary of Heart Failure Terms

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Collateral Blood Vessels: Small capillary-like branches of an artery that form over time in response to narrowed coronary arteries. The collaterals "bypass" the area of narrowing and help to restore blood flow. However, during times of increased exertion, the collaterals may not be able to supply enough oxygen-rich blood to the heart muscle.

Commissurotomy: A surgical procedure that helps to open blocked or defective heart valves. In some patients, specifically those with rheumatic heart disease, the edges of the valve leaflets (also called the commissures) can become fused together, preventing the valve leaflets from opening and allowing blood to flow through easily. In this surgery, the commissures are cut open to allow for valve opening.

Complex Carbohydrates: Starchy foods that are good sources of energy and nutrients, such as whole grain breads, rice, and pasta.

Congenital Heart Defects: Heart defects present at birth.

Congestive Heart Failure (CHF or heart failure): A condition where the heart muscle weakens and can't pump blood efficiently throughout the body, causing the body to hold onto salt and fluids.

Constrictive Pericarditis: The pericardium is the sac around the heart. In people with constrictive pericarditis, this sac becomes inflamed and scarred leading to shrinkage of the pericardium. This can prevent the heart from filling to its full extent.

Coronary Arteries: Network of blood vessels that branch off the aorta to supply the heart muscle with oxygen-rich blood. There are two main coronary arteries: the right and the left. The left splits into two arteries called the circumflex and the left anterior descending (LAD) arteries.

Coronary Artery Disease (atherosclerosis): A build-up of fatty material in the wall of the coronary artery that causes narrowing of the artery.

Coronary Spasm: Repeated contractions and dilations of the coronary arteries, causing a lack of blood supply to the heart muscle. It may occur at rest and can even occur in people without significant coronary artery disease.

Cyanosis: A blue tint to the skin, indicating the body is not receiving enough oxygen-rich blood.

Defibrillator: A machine that is used to administer an electric shock to the heart in order to re-establish normal heart rhythm.

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