Updated February 20, 2007
Explain it to me in plain English!
A - H I - Z
in weight lifting, one-repetition maximum. This is the heaviest weight you can lift once for any given movement (like bench press). See this page for more.  
see RFA 
American College of Cardiology, an organization for cardiologists that engages in influencing medical, social, and political policy in many areas, as well as providing medical education 
Angiotensin Converting Enzyme - substance produced by the body that converts angiotensin one into angiotensin II in the blood stream inside the lungs. ACE inhibitors block this conversion 
a natural chemical that carries nervous system impulses 
Acute Coronary Syndrome
general name for all patients who have serious chest pain, whether it is from a heart attack or from unstable angina 
adenosine is a substance released from the heart when catecholamine levels are high - as in heart failure. Adenosine counters the effects of catecholamines to some degree. CHFers have high levels of adenosine 
Anti-Diuretic Hormone - a hormone called vasopressin. ADH makes us retain fluid and is a vasopressor 
activated by adrenaline, or acting like adrenaline 
AF (a-fib)
Atrial Fibrillation - Irregular heart rhythm. While not deadly itself, a-fib increases risk of stroke 
the amount of strain on the heart when it is emptiest of blood, right after contracting (pumping) - partly caused by the resistance against which it must pump. The lower the afterload, the easier your heart's job is (artery pressures) 
American Heart Association, a half-billion dollar a year corporation that talks about heart health, issues reports on research, and funds institutions and researchers 
a steroid hormone that helps regulate salt and water balance in the body - too much is a bad thing in heart failure patients 
medicine treated to pass through the stomach unchanged and dissolve in the intestines 
transplant done between members of the same species. Likely to cause an immune reaction that causes the transplanted tissue to be rejected 
Antilymphocyte globulin, a potent drug for fighting organ rejection - see this page 
Alkaline phosphatase is found in the kidneys, bone, and intestine. ALP level can spot liver and bone disorders - see this page 
Alanine aminotransferase, a liver enzyme that leaks into the blood when liver cells are injured, used to be called SGPT - see this page 
amino acid
in general, the building blocks of which proteins are made 
to surgically connect two blood vessels. Two vessels so joined are an anastomosis 
spasms of chest pain often caused by lack blood flow to the heart - there are several different categories of angina 
swelling involving the skin and its layers, the mucous membranes and sometimes even internal organs. ACE inhibitors can cause angioedema, particularly of the throat and mouth, which is very dangerous because it can prevent breathing 
growth of new blood vessels to bring blood to tissue 
x-rays of the heart's arteries taken using a catheter procedure and dye - see this page 
Clearing out blockages in arteries using a catheter-based device. See cath and PTCA 
angiotensin II
a protein that is a vasoconstrictor. It is formed from angiotensin 1 by the action of ACE inside the lungs. Angiotensin II is over-active in heart failure and has harmful effects on the heart. ACE inhibitors and ARBs reduce these effects 
negatively charged ion 
surgery in which a synthetic ring is placed around the rim of a heart valve (annulus). This causes proper closing by shrinking the size of the valve opening 
loss of appetite, especially over a prolonged period of time 
Atrial Natriuetic Peptide - a hormone stored in all the heart's chambers. CHFers with symptoms have high ANP levels 
going in the usual (proper) direction 
toward the front 
anti-diuretic hormone
see ADH 
a substance that reduces damage from free radicals 
separating a part from its whole. Referring to blood, it means separating blood into its individual parts, called plasmapheresis 
having to do with the heart's apex, which is the lower pointed end of the heart opposite the space between the cartilages of the fifth and sixth ribs on the left side 
when you stop breathing but aren't dead. Some sleep disorders involve apnea, called sleep apnea 
cell death programmed by the body to keep cells from hanging around after outliving their usefulness. In heart failure, apoptosis can get out of hand and kill good heart cells 
Angiotensin II Receptor Blocker. Also called angiotensin antagonists. ARBs reduce angiotensin II but do it at the cell wall instead of in the blood stream inside the lungs like ACE inhibitors do. See this page 
an amino acid. Arginine becomes an essential amino acid when the body is under stress or is injured 
abnormal heart rhythm - can be deadly but usually isn't. All arrhythmias should be checked out by an electrophysiologist - a cardiologist specializing in the heart's electrical system 
Arrhythmogenic Right Ventricular Cardiomyopathy. Heart chamber - usually the right ventricle - is replaced by scar and fatty tissue (same as ARVD) 
Arrhythmogenic Right Ventricular Dysplasia. Heart chamber - usually the right ventricle - is replaced by scar and fatty tissue (same as ARVC) 
disease of the arteries -- see CAD 
accumulation of fluid in the abdomen (in the spaces between tissues and organs in the abdominal area). See this page 
lack of oxygen or excess of carbon dioxide in the body - usually caused by not breathing and resulting in unconsciousness 
Aspartate aminotransferase, a liver enzyme that leaks into the blood when liver cells are injured, used to be called SGOT - see this page 
having no symptoms at this time 
see dysynchrony. 
loss of muscular coordination 
Antithymocyte globulin (called Atgam) is a potent drug for fighting organ rejection - see this page 
Adenosine TriPhosphate, a molecule with a ribose, a base, and a phosphate chain. ATP loses the end phosphate group when told to do so by an enzyme. This releases energy which the body uses. When energy is not immediately needed, the reverse reaction takes place and the phosphate group is reattached to the molecule - ATP is like a battery, storing energy when it is not needed but releasing it instantly when it is needed 
decrease in size (often called wasting) of a body part, often muscle 
greedy or eager - inclined to grab hold of and keep 
taken from the same person, as in autologous bone marrow transplant, where cells are taken from a person and later injected back into the same person 
an organ is moved from one location to another location in the same body 
of the old Hindu system of medicine based on homeopathy and naturopathy 
azotaemia (azotemia)
increase in BUN and creatinine levels, usually from kidney failure 
loss of strength 
baseline testing is done at the start of a trial. Later tests will be compared to this to see what changes the therapy caused 
two times per day, as in take this pill twice a day 
an arrhythmia where heart beats are grouped in a repeating pattern of twos, usually one normal beat followed by one beat where the heart contracts too soon - a PVC or PAC. This is often followed by a pause while your heart resets its electrical system, resulting in a palpitation 
controlling the heart's beating using a special pacemaker with 3 leads - one in the right atrium, one in right ventricle and one in a coronary vein of the left ventricle. This allows CRT pacing 
Body Mass Index - how fat you really are - see this page to calculate your own BMI. BMI less than 18.5 = underweight; 18.5 to 24.9 = normal; 25 to 29.9 = overweight; 30 or more = obese. BMI formula = body weight in kilograms divided by body height in meters squared 
B-type Natriuretic Peptide
a natural hormone the heart releases when it cannot pump sufficient blood. See this page 
Body Surface Area
BSA in meters squared = (body weight in kilograms to the 0.425 power times height in centimeters to the 0.725 power) times 0.007184. Go figure. This number is required to calculate cardiac index. Why? A 300-lb man's heart moves more blood than a 120-lb woman's, so cardiac index links cardiac output to body size 
Blood Pressure 
beats per minute - speed of your heart rate 
implanting radioactive pellets or "seeds" inside the arteries to prevent restenosis 
abnormally slow heart rate 
Body Surface Area 
Blood Urea Nitrogen - see this page 
heart bypass surgery - see CABG 
Coronary Artery Bypass Grafting, often called bypass surgery. Blood vessels are taken from other parts of your body during surgery (usually thighs) and sewn into coronary arteries to replace "bad" sections, thus restoring proper blood flow to your heart. Four-way bypass means 4 coronary arteries were bypassed, 3-way means 3 arteries were bypassed, etc 
Coronary Artery Disease - condition that reduces blood flow through the coronary arteries to the heart muscle. Usually caused by plaque buildup in the arteries ("blocked" arteries)  
cyclic Adenosine MonoPhosphate - a mononucleotide of adenosine formed from ATP. cAMP is involved in many hormonal effects, and may dilate smooth muscle 
relating to the heart 
cardiac cachexia
wasting (weight loss) due to heart disease. Cachexia happens when you lose more than 7.5% of total body weight 
cardiac index
cardiac output divided by body surface area. Cardiac index is more useful than cardiac output. Why? A 300-lb man's heart moves more blood than a 120-lb woman's, so cardiac index links cardiac output to body size 
cardiac output
the volume of blood ejected by the heart per minute. Normal range at rest is 4 to 8 liters per minute. Cardiac index is more commonly used. Why? A 300-lb man's heart moves more blood per minute than a 120-lb woman's, so cardiac index links cardiac output to body size 
temporary stoppage of the heart during heart surgery, usually using drugs 
enlargement of the heart 
Any malfunctioning of the heart's main pumping chamber, the ventricle - except problems caused by congenital heart defects; heart valve problems, chronic high blood pressure, the heart's electrical system, or coronary artery disease. In reality, doctors use the word cardiomyopathy to describe pretty much all heart disease 
cardiothoracic ratio (CTR)
the widest heart diameter compared with the widest chest diameter. Normal cardiothoracic ratio is less than 1:2. A higher-than-normal CTR means the heart is enlarged, taking up too much of the chest cavity 
any of the body's chemical messengers with a certain structure that act as hormones or neurotransmitters. Epinephrine, norepinephrine, and dopamine are catecholamines. Many of these over-activate the heart during heart failure, causing harm 
sudden loss of muscle power without losing consciousness, usually after an emotional shock. In other words, "freezing up" 
catheterization - a thin tube (catheter) is inserted through a small incision in your groin and run up to your heart. Through this tube, dye can be injected for clear x-rays and biopsies can be taken, as well as pressure readings. See this page 
a long, thin tube inserted through a small incision and run to your heart. Through this tube, dye can be injected for clear x-rays, tiny tools can be used at its end, biopsies (samples) can be taken, and pressures measured. 
positively charged ion 
Calcium Channel Blocker - class 4 anti-arrhythmic drugs. These drugs lower blood pressure and may weaken the heart's pumping strength. Not to be taken by CHFers with systolic dysfunction (they shorten life span), but may or may not be useful in diastolic dysfunction (safety is not proven). Includes amlodipine (Norvasc, Lotrel), diltiazem (Cardizem), and verapamil (Covera, Isoptin, Calan). Amlodipine is safest in CHFers (PRAISE I and II trials) 
Coronary Care Unit - the Intensive Care Unit for heart patients 
Congenital Heart Disease -- heart disease present since birth 
Coronary Heart Disease -- heart disease involving blockage of the arteries 
Cheyne-Stokes respiration
pattern of breathing - gradual increase in how deep your breaths are, followed by gradually less deep breathing resulting in complete but temporarily stopped breathing (apnea) 
Congestive Heart Failure -- see this page 
a person who has CHF -- pronounced "chiffer"  
surgical removal of the gallbladder 
Cardiac Index 
to limp or be lame, often caused by blockage of tiny blood vessels (capillaries) in the legs 
Club Med
hospital (Club Medical - get it?) 
Cardiac Output 
Carbon Dioxide 
referring to a CHF patient, "cold" means not enough blood is flowing to your internal organs for those organs to function properly 
a tough protein that is part of human skin, tendons, bones, and other connective tissue 
to have chronic heart failure but not have symptoms - if your CHF is well controlled, you are compensated 
to follow medical instructions. If you strictly take the right dose of meds on time all the time, you are a compliant patient 
present at birth 
condition accompanied by an accumulation of fluid in tissues or organs. Congestive heart failure is congestive because fluid backs up into the lungs and other tissues. See this page 
chronic obstructive pulmonary disease 
Coronary Sinus
Most of the veins of the heart open into the coronary sinus. This is a wide vein channel opening into the right atrium, with its opening protected by a valve 
cyclooxygenase - an enzyme inhibited by NSAIDs. COX-1 protects the lining of the stomach. COX-2 causes pain and inflammation. Newer NSAIDs like Celebrex only block COX-2 while older NSAIDs like ibuprofen block both
Continuous Positive Airway Pressure device, a portable low-pressure air generator connected by tubing to a nose mask. Available by prescription - see this picture 
CardioPulmonary Resuscitation, a method of manually keeping blood and oxygen circulating to sustain life after cardiac arrest. Not very effective at all outside a hospital setting 
Cardio-Pulmonary Stress Test - see this page 
waste product of creatine phosphate. Creatinine is eliminated only through the kidneys so when kidneys get weak, creatinine level goes up - see this page 
Cardiac Resynchronization Therapy - see this page 
anti-rejection drug cyclosporine (Sandimmune, Neoral, Gengraf, SangCya) See this page 
Cardiac troponin I
a protein in the heart - high blood levels in a CHFer indicate high risk for worsening heart function or death 
cardiothoracic ratio 
blue or purple discoloration of the skin from lack of oxygen in the blood 
substances secreted by cells of the immune system. They have a regulatory function in the body but may get out of control in heart failure and cause cell death. TNF-alpha is a cytokine 
Directional Coronary Atherectomy. Angioplasty using a catheter with a cup-shaped blade to remove plaque blocking arteries 
Dick Cheney Device - slang for ICD 
Dilated CardioMyopathy - heart disease causing heart enlargement. When a doctor says DCM, he means cardiomyopathy without a known cause (idiopathic) 
NBG code for dual-chamber pacing with atrial tracking. The pacemaker paces and senses in both atrium and ventricle. If the heart does not beat naturally, both chambers are paced at the programmed rate 
NBG code for dual-chamber pacing with atrial tracking and rate modulation 
NBG code for DDDR pacing with ICD shock capability added 
NBG code for dual-chamber, nontracking pacing, with sensing in both chambers. Pacing and sensing occur in atrium and ventricle, with inhibited response 
NBG code for dual-chamber, nontracking pacing with sensing in both chambers and rate modulation 
to have chronic heart failure and have symptoms - if your CHF does not respond to therapy, you have symptoms, thus you are decompensated. This is not good. Severe decompensation means a trip to Club Med. If your CHF gets one full class worse, you are also said to be decompensated 
losing physical fitness to the point that it hurts your health. This often occurs in heart failure patients, who can't - or won't - exercise on a regular basis. Use it or lose it 
de novo
new, as in a de novo heart transplant means the first time this person has had a donor heart 
mental disturbance, with confusion, hallucinations, and disordered speech 
Diastolic Heart Failure - see this page 
Dilutional HypoNatremia. Too-low levels of sodium and chloride. This indicates end-stage heart disease 
diabetes insipidus
disorder of the pituitary gland causing intense thirst and excessive urination 
the decision reached after identifying a disease from its signs and symptoms - as in, your diagnosis is heart failure 
diastole, diastolic
part of the cardiac cycle when the ventricles relax and fill with blood 
enlarge, get bigger - as in, a dilated heart is an enlarged heart 
farthest - as in, the distal artery is the artery farthest away from the catheter 
tendency toward a particular condition 
increased urination 
drugs that increase urination through their effects on kidney function - pills that make you pee, also known as water pills 
the world seems to spin around you or you feel like you are spinning. See lightheaded 
DeciLiter, a metric unit of volume. One deciliter = 1/10 liter = 3.38 ounces = 1.06 quarts = 0.03 gallons American 
Do Not Resuscitate order, a legal paper a patient can sign to stop doctors from reviving him if he dies. DNR orders are not always honored by doctors 
Inotropic drug. Inotropes make your heart beat stronger but have drawbacks. See this page 
The higher the dose, the greater the effect; and the lower the dose, the less the effect 
any process (as in disease) that reduces the responsiveness of a cell (or receptor on a cell) to stimulation. 
not in volume overload 
dysynchrony or dyssynchrony
when the heart's 4 chambers do not beat as a "team" - an echo is usually used to diagnose this, which is treated with a biventricular pacemaker (CRT). Also called asynchrony 
reduced or incorrect functioning of an organ or body system 
reduced motion 
abnormally formed. A right heart dysplasia means the right side of the heart did not develop properly or is not formed in the usual way 
shortness of breath (a CHF symptom) 
serious problem with muscle tone 
ElectroCardioGram, same as EKG - measures the heart's electrical activity. A non-invasive, painless test that takes about 5 minutes. More on this page 
Enhanced External Counterpulsation. See this page 
Echocardiogram. An ultrasound test to measure heart function. It's non-invasive and painless 
ectopic heart beat
any heart beat that occurs out of the normal heart rhythm 
abnormal accumulation of fluid in body tissues, causing swelling (a CHF symptom) - see this page 
Ejection Fraction 
Ejection Fraction
percentage of blood in the left ventricle that is pumped out in one beat -- see this page 
same as ECG - measures the heart's electrical activity. A non-invasive, painless test that takes about 5 minutes. More on this page 
a substance that can conduct electrical current. In the human body, magnesium, potassium, calcium, and sodium are electrolytes 
Cardiologist specially trained to deal with the heart's electrical system 
sudden blockage of a blood vessel, such as an air bubble or blood clot that has broken loose in the blood stream. Can cause heart attack or stroke 
abnormal particle (like an air bubble) circulating in the blood 
Emergency Medical Technician - the guy in the ambulance who takes you to the hospital 
end point
the result that a medical trial sets out to test. Endpoints must be defined before a trial is started to be valid 
procedure like angioplasty, done on the carotid artery in the neck 
having to do with the endocardium, which is a thin membrane lining the cavities of the heart 
polypeptide (amino acid string) that is a powerful vasoconstrictor - not a good thing. Trials of oral endothelin blockers increased risk of death in heart failure patients - why is unknown 
the layer of cells that line the inside of all human blood vessels. The endothelium performs many critical functions 
the result that a medical trial sets out to test. Endpoints must be defined before a trial is started to be valid 
In CHF, when drugs no longer control heart failure symptoms. Death is expected by pump failure or sudden cardiac death. However, there is no way - no way - to estimate life span at this point. Inotropes or devices may extend life or control symptoms 
Ear, Nose, and Throat doctor 
relating to, or affecting the intestines. The opposite of parenteral 
ElectroPhysiology- the study and management of the heart's electrical system and its disorders 
having to do with the epicardium, which is the part of the pericardium that closely envelops the heart 
all the factors controlling the presence or absence of a disease 
inside the spinal canal - or, on or around the dura mater, a tough membrane surrounding the spinal cord. Extradural and peridural mean the same thing 
ElectroPhysiology Study. Cath-like procedure to test for rhythm abnormalities of the heart. See this page 
Emergency Room, where patients are seen in a hospital in an emergency 
erectile dysfunction
inability to either get, or maintain, an erection 
a hormone secreted by the kidneys. It acts on bone marrow to stimulate red blood cell production. Recombinant EPO is a synthetic version of this hormone. EPO is approved for treatment of anemia. Ortho Biotech - who makes Procrit - has a patient assistance program. Call 1-800-553-3851. 
cause of a disease - as in, the etiology of my cardiomyopathy is unknown 
a non-active substance - such as gum arabic, syrup, lanolin, or starch - that makes up the bulk of a pill or medication, to which a small amount of drug is added 
Familial Hypertrophic Cardiomyopathy. HCM that is genetically caused, and runs in the family 
heart contractions with individual cells firing at their own (different) rates rather than properly in unison 
a vague and poorly understood disease which causes the body to wrongly interpret sensory input - causes serious depression, pain, stiffness, fatigue, and sleep problems - should be treated by a rheumatologist, in my opinion. I have it and trust me, you don't want it 
a condition of increased connective tissue containing or made up of tissue resembling fibers 
free radical
oxygen atom with an odd number of electrons. It seeks other molecules to steal an electron from so it can balance its electron pairs. This thieving damages the molecules it steals from 
FS or fractional shortening
the difference between the size of your heart when it is full of blood and the size of your heart when it has squeezed all it can squeeze from pumping blood out. Average FS is roughly 36%. This measurement is rarely used anymore - EF is more accurate 
gram, a metric unit of weight. One g = 0.035 ounces American 
the genetic makeup of an individual or group 
Glomerular Filtration Rate - a measure of kidney function calculated from blood creatinine test result, age, body size and gender -- see this page 
Gamma Glutamyl Transpeptidase is an enzyme produced in the bile ducts. GGT measurement is a very sensitive test for liver dysfunction - see this page 
Growth Hormone, short for human growth hormone or RHGH - see this page 
graft (loss)
graft may mean a piece of artery used to replace a damaged or blocked artery as in bypass or CABG; may also mean a transplanted organ - graft loss means rejection that causes loss of a transplanted organ 
breast enlargement and tenderness. Some CHF meds like spironolactone cause this in both men and women - can be permanent 
Hypertrophic CardioMyopathy -- see this page 
High Density Lipoprotein - "good cholesterol" 
a bruise. A "pool" of blood - usually clotted - in an organ, space, or tissue, due to a break in a blood vessel wall 
blood in the urine 
one component of blood, containing iron 
screwed-up iron metabolism, can contribute to diabetes and weakness; and can affect the liver, brain, heart, kidneys and testicles 
the mechanics of blood circulation. In heart failure, it usually refers to heart function - how much blood the heart can pump 
an iron-containing pigment in red blood cells that carries oxygen from the lungs to the tissues 
enlarged liver - in heart failure usually from edema 
originating from an outside source 
US government Department of Health and Human Services, another bloated bureaucracy 
heart muscle cells that are stunned but not dead. Such cells function poorly if at all, but may "come to life" if proper blood flow is restored 
abnormal hair growth, excess hairiness 
treating a disease by giving tiny doses of a substance that would in healthy persons actually cause symptoms of the disease being treated 
all alike, of uniform structure or composition 
Heart Rate - how many times per minute your heart beats 
giving nutrients by intravenous feeding (tube feeding) 
too much potassium in your blood. See this page 
too much sodium in your blood. See this page. This is not strongly related to how much sodium you eat in your food 
abnormal increase in the elements making up a part - like an increase in the cells that make up a tissue 
high blood pressure 
enlargement beyond normal size 
hemorrhage (bleeding) in the eye 
too-low blood sugar 
not enough potassium in the blood. See this page 
hypokinetic (motion)
very limited or slow (motion), usually of the heart wall 
not enough sodium in your blood. See this page. This is not strongly related to how much sodium you eat in your food 
low blood pressure 
not enough oxygen supply to tissue, despite adequate blood flow 

More terms defined here

All information on this site is opinion only. All concepts, explanations, trials, and studies have been re-written in plain English and may contain errors. I am not a doctor. Use the reference information at the end of each article to search MedLine for more complete and accurate information. All original copyrights apply. No information on this page should be used by any person to affect their medical, legal, educational, social, or psychological treatment in any way. I am not a doctor. This web site and all its pages, graphics, and content copyright © 1997, 1998, 1999, 2000, 2001, 2002, 2003, 2004, 2005, 2006, 2007 Jon C.

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