Heart Disease Glossary

Angina pectoris:  Chest pain caused by impairment in blood flow through the coronary arteries that feed the heart.

Arrhythmia:  An abnormal heart rhythm.  Some arrhythmias can be life-threatening.

Atherosclerosis:  A hardening or buildup of cholesterol plaque and other fatty deposits in the arteries.

Cardiovascular disease:  Any of the disorders that can affect the circulatory system, but often refers collectively to coronary heart disease (CHD), heart failure, and stroke.

Coronary artery:  One of the blood vessels that carries blood to the heart muscle itself.  If blood flow through these vessels is obstructed, the surrounding heart muscle will die, resulting in a heart attack.

Coronary heart disease:  Impaired circulation in one or more coronary arteries; often manifests as chest pain (angina pectoris) or heart attack.  Also referred to as coronary artery disease, ischemic heart disease, or heart disease.

Electron Beam Tomography (EBT):  EBT uses a high-speed electron beam to non-invasively scan the heart for the presence of calcium deposits (a marker for atherosclerosis).  EBT is the only imaging technology approved by the FDA for the early detection of heart disease.

Heart attack:  An acute event in which the heart muscle is damaged because of a lack of blood flow from the coronary arteries, typically accompanied by chest pain and other warning signs, but sometimes occurring with no recognized symptoms (i.e., "silent heart attack").

Ischemia: An interruption or blockage of blood flow to the heart or brain.

Platelet: Cells that are responsible for the formation of blood clots.

Primary cardiovascular disease prevention:  A set of interventions, including the detection and control of risk factors, designed to prevent the first occurrence of heart attack, heart failure, or stroke among people with identifiable risk factors. 

Secondary cardiovascular disease prevention:  A set of interventions, including the detection and control of risk factors, designed to prevent a repeat occurrence of heart attack, heart failure, or stroke among people with identifiable risk factors.

Stenosis:  Narrowing of an artery, usually caused by a buildup of plaque.