By Michael Thompson, Contriubting writer
The lingo of heart disease appears simple at first, but the terminology can also become quite complicated. Even when professionals like surgeons and other doctors try to stick to the basics, sometimes their language goes beyond that of laypeople.
Heart disease terms aren't simple. So, doctors at the Cleveland Clinic put their heads together and came up with a glossary of nearly 200 heart disease terms.
Never hesitate to raise a hand when a doctor's heart disease terms don't make sense to you. In the meantime, a patient or loved one can bone up on the lingo here. The following is a top 10 list of heart disease terms.
1. Angina is a pressure or discomfort that is felt usually in the chest, but sometimes in the neck or arms. The cause of angina is a temporary lack of enough blood getting to the heart muscle. If the doctor speaks of angiogenesis, that's a treatment to produce new blood vessels. Angioplasty involves a balloon catheter that clears an artery of a blockage.
2. Aneurysm takes place when heart tissue or a blood vessel wall begin to bulge, creating a sac filled with blood. Doctors strive to remove large aneurysms so that they do not rupture and bleed.
3. Aorta is the largest artery for pumping blood out of the heart and into other parts of the body. The aortic valve prevents leakage back into the left ventricle. If aortic valve repair is not feasible, modern medicine allows the aortic valve to be replaced with another human valve, or an artificial one.
4. Atherosclerosis is what is commonly known as hardening of the arteries. These blood vessels are supposed to carry blood away from the heart, not to the heart, as is sometimes thought when the blockage is big enough.
5. Atrial fibrillation is an irregular heart rhythm, while atrial flutter is just what it sounds like. People who have had heart troubles know the difference. An atrial myxomo is a heart tumor.
6. Capillaries are those tiny blood vessels that connect arteries to veins. There are so many capillaries that it's OK if a few of them are blocked.
7. Heart attack and (congestive) heart failure actually are opposite problems. A heart attack happens when the heart lacks blood for an extended period of time. Heart failure occurs when too much blood accumulates because the heart muscle becomes too weak to pump efficiently. This is why a heart attack is sudden, while congestive heart failure is gradual.
8. Lipids are fats that circulate in the blood. A high-density lipoprotein particle is "good" because it deposits cholesterol in the liver for bodily excretion. A low-density lipoprotein particle is "bad" because it deposits cholesterol into the artery linings.
9. MRI stands for magnetic resonance imaging, a test that can show the heart in action throughout its pumping cycle. Think of an X-ray as one frame of movie film, and an MRI as a whole spool of those frames.
10. Perhaps the most difficult sounding heart disease term is the sphygmomanometer, but this is simply a device for measuring blood pressure.