Glossary of Terms

Glossary of Terms (Cardiovascular/Heart Care)

Angina: symptoms that occur when the heart muscle can’t get enough oxygen-rich blood. Often appears as pressure, tightness, aching, or pain in the chest, arm, neck, or jaw.

Angiogram: a special x-ray of a blood vessel.

Aorta: the body’s largest artery. It carries blood from the heart to the rest of the body.

Arrhythmia: an abnormal heartbeat.

Arteriosclerosis: when artery walls thicken and lose elasticity. Sometimes called “hardening of the arteries.”

Artery: a blood vessel that carries blood from the heart to the body.

Atherosclerosis: the buildup of plaque within artery walls.

Atria (singular: atrium): the heart’s two upper chambers. They receive blood from the lungs and body.


Balloon angioplasty: a procedure that uses a balloon-tipped catheter to open an artery narrowed or blocked by plaque.

Blood (serum) cholesterol: a fatty substance produced by the body and carried in the blood. Can build up within artery walls as plaque.

Blood pressure: a measurement indicating the force of blood as it presses against artery walls while moving through vessels.

Blood vessels: tubes that carry blood throughout the body. Arteries and veins are blood vessels.

Bypass: a new pathway for blood flow.


CABG (pronounced “cabbage”): another term for coronary artery bypass graft surgery.

Cardiomyopathy: weakening of, or structural change in, the heart muscle that reduces the heart’s ability to pump.

Catheter: a long, thin, flexible plastic tube.

Coronary arteries: blood vessels that wrap around the heart and supply the heart muscle with oxygen-rich blood.

Coronary artery disease: blocked or narrowed coronary arteries.


Diastolic pressure: the pressure of blood against the inside of artery walls between heartbeats. Appears as the bottom number in a blood pressure measurement.


Electrocardiogram: a test that records the way electrical signals move through the heart. Often called an ECG or EKG.


Heart attack: an event that occurs when oxygen-rich blood can’t get to part of the heart muscle. Can cause permanent damage.

Hypertension: another word for “high blood pressure.”


Myocardial infarction: death of heart muscle tissue. Also known as a heart attack.


Plaque: a deposit of fatty material (including cholesterol) within artery walls.

Pulmonary artery: the large artery that carries blood from the heart to the lungs to get oxygen.


Stenosis: the narrowing of an artery, often caused by plaque buildup.

Stroke: a blockage or rupture in a blood vessel that cuts off blood flow to part of the brain. May cause brain damage. Also known as a brain attack or CVA (cerebrovascular accident).

Systolic pressure: the pressure of blood against the inside of artery walls during a heartbeat (when the heart pumps). Appears as the top number in a blood pressure measurement.


Ultrasound: a test that uses sound waves to create images of structures inside the body.


Valves: “doorways” that open and close to let blood move and prevent backflow of blood. There are valves between the heart’s chambers.

Vein: a blood vessel that carries blood from the body back to the heart.

Ventricles: the heart’s two lower chambers. They pump blood to the body and lungs.

St. Luke's Heart & Vascular