Glossary

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Adrenal Gland:
Small glandular organs located near the kidneys that produce a variety of compounds with diverse functions, such as regulating blood pressure, responding to stress and helping with sexual development.
Adrenaline
A hormone secreted by the adrenal glands. It helps the liver release glucose, or sugar, and limit the release of insulin. It also makes the heart beat faster and can raise blood pressure.
Aldosteronism:
A disorder of the adrenal gland. Symptoms may include muscle weakness, periodic paralysis, and/or muscle cramps.
Angina:
Chest pains caused by a reduction of the oxygen supply to the heart.
Angina Pectoris:
Chest pains caused by a reduction of the oxygen supply to the heart.
Angiotensin:
A chemical that causes the arteries to narrow which in turn raises blood pressure. Its production is stimulated by the presence of renin.
Antihypertensives:
Medications that help lower high blood pressure.
Aorta:
The body’s main artery, which leads away from the heart toward the abdomen.
Arteries:
The largest blood vessels, branching away from the aorta and out to the rest of the body.
Arterioles:
Medium-sized blood vessels. Arterioles have smooth muscle in their walls and when they are restricted, your blood pressure rises.
Arteriosclerosis:
A general term for the thickening and hardening of arteries. Arteriosclerosis in the coronary arteries reduces the amount of blood that reaches and nourishes the muscle of the heart.
Atherosclerosis:
A type of arteriosclerosis that involves deposits of plaque in the inner lining of large and medium-sized arteries.
Atherosclerotic Lesions:
An abnormal change in structure of an organ or part due to atherosclerosis. The lesions are deposits that may contain fatty, fibro fatty, fibrotic, and calcified material.
Atria:
The upper chambers of the heart. Atria receive blood that is being returned to the heart. The right atrium receives blood with little oxygen because the blood has already circulated throughout your body, delivering oxygen and nutrients. The left atrium fills with newly oxygenated blood returning from your lungs. When the atria pump, they push the blood through valves into the relaxed ventricles.
Atrium
One of the two upper chambers of the heart. Also known as the atria. (See atria.)
Baselines:
Reference points.
Bile Acid Sequestrants/Bile Resins
Medications that bind to cholesterol in the gut, prevent its reabsorption, and lead to its removal in the stool.
Blood Glucose Level:
A blood test to evaluate your blood sugar level.
Blood Pressure
The force that your heart creates in order to push blood to the organs of your body. Blood pressure results from two forces. One is created by the heart as it pumps blood into the arteries and through the circulatory system. The other is the force of the arteries as they resist the blood flow.
Blood Urea Nitrogen (BUN):
A byproduct of energy metabolism. Muscle cells use glucose for energy, and in the process, BUN is produced. This is typically excreted in the urine as a waste product.
Body Mass Index (BMI):
A measurement to determine if someone is overweight. BMI relates weight to height. It gives an approximation of total body fat, which increases the risk of obesity-related diseases. Overweight is defined as a BMI of 25 to 29.9; obesity is defined as a BMI equal to or more than 30.
Capillaries:
Any of the smallest blood vessels connecting arterioles with venules and forming networks throughout body tissues.
Cholesterol:
A soft, waxy substance found among the lipids, or fats, in the bloodstream, and in all your body’s cells. It’s an important part of a healthy body because it’s used to form cell membranes and some hormones, and is needed for other functions. Cholesterol becomes a problem when there is too much of it, or it has accumulated in the wrong places.
Chylomicrons:
Small lipid droplets that contain cholesterol and triglycerides and are manufactured by epithelial cells in the small intestine.
Circulatory System:
The heart and the blood vessels (arteries, arterioles, and capillaries), which are responsible for keeping blood flowing throughout the body.
Claudication:
Pain in the extremities (arms or legs) that occurs as a result of an insufficient supply of oxygen from the blood. This is typically the result of atherosclerotic plaques in the main arteries and arterioles that supply the limbs with blood. It typically occurs with exertion or increased movement of the limbs, but can occur at rest when the disease has progressed.
Congestive Heart Failure:
A common form of heart failure that is caused by the enlargement and weakening of the walls of the heart. It results in a person retaining excessive fluid, often leading to swelling of the legs and ankles, as well as congestion in the lungs.
Constriction:
The process of becoming narrower, squeezing, or compressing.
Coronary Artery Disease (CAD):
A condition caused by thickening of the walls of the arteries that supply blood to the heart muscle. When these arteries become blocked, the heart is deprived of oxygen and can become damaged. Severe cases can result in heart attack.
Coronary Heart Disease:
A condition, known as sclerosis or thrombosis, that reduces the blood flow through the coronary arteries to the heart muscle Also known as coronary disease and coronary artery disease.
Cortisol Measurements:
The measurement of cortisol levels in urine collected over 24-hours that is used to help diagnose Cushing’s Syndrome.
Creatinine:
A by-product of energy metabolism. This means that muscle cells utilize glucose for energy, and in the process creatinine is produced. Creatinine is typically excreted in the urine as a waste product.
Cushing’s Syndrome:
An abnormal bodily condition that is caused by excess corticosteroids, especially cortisol. It is characterized by a variety of signs and symptoms including a change in appearance marked by a moon face, obesity, easy bruising, fatigue, muscle weakness, and hypertension. Also known as adrenogenital syndrome.

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Diabetes:
A condition marked by elevated blood sugar that results from either a lack of insulin, which is a hormone that helps the body handle blood sugar properly and lower the blood sugar, or a lack of proper response to the insulin that is produced. Diabetes is a serious disease that can contribute to heart disease, kidney disease, vision problems, nerve problems such as a loss of sensation in the feet, and poor wound healing.
Diabetic Nephropathy:
Damage to the kidneys that develops as the result of diabetes.
Dialysis:
The process of cleansing the blood by passing it through a special filtering machine. Dialysis is necessary when the kidneys are not able to filter the blood. It allows patients with kidney failure a chance to live longer.
Diastolic Blood Pressure:
The blood pressure when your heart is resting between beats. It is the number on the bottom of your blood pressure reading.
Diuretics:
Sometimes called “water pills,” these medications work on the kidneys to promote the formation and excretion of urine to rid the body of excess fluid and sodium.
Dyslipidemia:
Unhealthy level of lipids, such as cholesterol or triglycerides, in your bloodstream.
Echocardiogram:
A painless test that uses sound waves to image the heart and further evaluate its function.
Electrocardiogram:
A test used by providers to determine the condition of your heart. During the course of beating, your heart emits weak electrical signals. An electrocardiogram records these signals, and gives your provider an overall picture of your heart from a functional standpoint. It is also referred to as an ECG or an EKG.
Emphysema:
A local or generalized condition of the lung marked by distension, progressive loss of elasticity, and eventual rupture of the alveoli. I can also be accompanied by labored breathing, a husky cough, and occasionally by impairment of heart action.
Epinephrine:
A heart stimulant. It is a vasoconstrictor that controls hemorrhages of the skin, prolongs the effects of local anesthetics, and works as a muscle relaxant in bronchial asthma. It is also called adrenaline.
Essential Hypertension:
Abnormally high systolic and diastolic blood pressure, occurring in the absence of any evident cause. It is also called primary hypertension.
Fasting State:
Going without food for at least eight to 12 hours.
Fibrates:
Fibric acid derivatives and fibrate medications lower LDL cholesterol, though generally to a lesser extent than the statins. They work by both decreasing cholesterol made in the liver and by increasing its removal through bile.
Fibrin:
A clotting material in the blood.
Fibrous Cap:
The thin outer shell of an atherosclerotic plaque.
Fixed Risk Factors:
Factors that we cannot control such as age or family history.
Glomerulus:
A small ball of capillaries. Millions of these are found in the kidneys.
Glucose:
The sugar that is the chief source of your body’s energy. Found in the blood, it is the main sugar that the body manufactures. The body makes glucose from all three elements of food – protein, fat and carbohydrates – but the largest portion comes from carbohydrates. Glucose serves as the major source of energy for living cells. It is carried to each cell through the bloodstream. Cells, however, cannot use glucose without the help of insulin.
Heart Attack:
Death of a portion of the heart muscle caused by a sudden decrease in blood supply to that area. It is also known as a myocardial infarction or MI.
Heart Failure:
Heart failure means that the heart simply doesn’t move enough blood through the circulatory system in response to the body’s demands. Either it can’t contract with the proper amount of force, or it can’t relax, allowing the chamber to fill with the blood returning from the lungs. In either case the blood simply backs up and causes problems.
Hematuria:
The presence of blood or blood cells in the urine.
Hemoglobin:
A protein in red blood cells that combines with oxygen and transports it from the lungs to body tissues.
Hemorrhagic Stroke:
A type of stroke that is caused by ruptured blood vessels within the brain.
Heredity:
The characteristics passed on genetically to an individual by their ancestors.
High Density Lipoprotein (HDL):
Referred to as “good” cholesterol, HDL collects excess cholesterol from the body and returns it to your liver, where it can be eliminated. It’s important to note that this process is the only way that cholesterol is removed from your body.
Hydrogenation:
A process that forms a type of unsaturated fat called “trans” fat. Hydrogenation appears to raise blood cholesterol more than other unsaturated fats, but not as much as saturated fats.
Hyperlipidemia:
A type of dyslipidemia, when your lipid level is too high.
Hyperparathyroidism:
The presence of excess parathyroid hormone in the body. The result is a disturbance of calcium metabolism with an increase in serum calcium and decrease in inorganic phosphorus, loss of calcium from bone, and renal damage with frequent kidney stone formation.
Hypothyroidism:
A condition where an inadequate amount of thyroid hormone is released into the bloodstream.
Hypogonadism
A condition where an inadequate amount of sex hormones are released into the bloodstream.
Hypertension:
The medical term for abnormally high blood pressure.

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Immune Factors:
Chemicals that the body’s immune system releases in order to protect the damaged walls of an artery.
Intravenous:
Introduce into the circulatory system by entering a vein.
Ischemic Stroke:
The most common type of stroke where a blood clot blocks an artery into the brain.
Kidney Failure:
A gradual and progressive loss of the ability of the kidneys to excrete wastes, concentrate urine, and conserve electrolytes. It is also known as renal failure.
Lipids:
Fats associated with cholesterol. Fatty substances, including cholesterol and triglycerides, are found in your blood and body tissues.
Lipoprotein:
A type of protein that coats cholesterol to help cholesterol travel through the bloodstream.
Low Density Lipoprotein (LDL):
Known as “bad” cholesterol, since this is the cholesterol molecule that cells take up to form cholesterol plaques. Reducing fat and cholesterol in the diet can reduce LDL.
Menopause:
The period of natural cessation of menstruation occurring usually between the ages of 45 and 50.
Metanephrine:
The form in which epinephrine is excreted through the kidneys.
Myocytes:
Heart muscle cells.
Niacin:
Niacin, or nicotinic acid, is a water-soluble vitamin that in large doses has favorable effects on the lipid profile. Niacin reduces levels of LDL cholesterol and triglycerides. Its main effect, however, is increasing the level of HDL cholesterol.
Nephrotic Syndrome:
A disorder of the kidney resulting from damage to the glomeruli, or microscopic filters in the kidney. It results in loss of protein, among other factors, into the urine.
Obesity:
Too much body fat. Obesity is defined as a BMI equal to or more than 30.
Osteoporosis:
A condition that primarily affects older women and is characterized by decrease in bone mass with decreased density and enlargement of bone spaces. It produces porosity in and fragility of the bones.
Overweight:
Defined as a BMI of 25 to 29.9. A BMI of 30 or more is considered obesity.
Oxidation:
A chemical reaction with oxygen that involves the transfer of electrons. Rusting and food spoilage are two common examples of oxidation.
Pancreatitis:
An inflammation of the pancreas, which is an organ responsible for making digestive juices and insulin, as well as several hormones.
Parathyroid:
Small bean-shaped piece of glandular tissue embedded in the thyroid gland. It secretes a hormone involved in regulating calcium levels in the blood.
Peripheral Artery Disease:
The result of arteriosclerosis that occurs in the arteries that supply blood to your legs and feet. The decreased blood flow to your legs can lead to nerve and tissue damage.
Peripheral Blood Vessels:
Blood vessels known as arterioles. They have smooth muscles in their walls and when they are restricted, your blood pressure rises.
Peripheral Vascular Disease:
Peripheral vascular disease, or PVD, happens when the arteries that carry blood from the heart to your arms or legs become narrowed or clogged. When this narrowing is severe, you may have pain in your legs or arms with exertion.
Pheochromocytoma:
A tumor of the adrenal gland.
Plaque:
A build up of fatty substances consisting of cholesterol, cellular waste products, calcium, and inflammatory byproducts.
Plant Sterol:
Compounds, or the cholesterol, found in plants that we consume in our diets. They are found in larger amounts in the diets of vegetarians. Also known as stanol ester.
Plasma:
The liquid part of the blood and lymphatic fluid. Plasma is devoid of cells and, unlike serum, has not clotted. Blood plasma contains antibodies and other proteins.
Post-menopausal:
Occurring after menopause.
Potassium:
An electrolyte that works with sodium to regulate the body’s waste balance and normalize heart rhythms. It aids in clear thinking by sending oxygen to the brain, preserves proper alkalinity of body fluids, stimulates the kidneys to eliminate body waste products, assists in reducing high blood pressure and promotes healthy skin.
Prehypertension:
Slightly to moderately elevated arterial blood pressure that in adults is usually indicated by a systolic blood pressure of 120 to 139 mm Hg or a diastolic blood pressure of 80 to 89 mm Hg. It is considered a risk factor for hypertension.
Primary Hypertension:
Abnormally high systolic and diastolic blood pressure, occurring in the absence of any evident cause. It is also called essential hypertension.
Pulmonary Edema:
Fluid accumulation in the lungs.
Pulmonary System:
The body’s respiratory system, which is responsible for breathing.
Pulmonary Valve:
A valve consisting of three semi-lunar cusps, separating the pulmonary vascular system from the right ventricle of the heart.

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Renal Arteriography/Angiography:
The x-ray visualization of an artery in the kidney after injection of a radiopaque substance.
Renal Epithelial Cells:
Cells from the kidney.
Renal Failure
A gradual and progressive loss of the ability of the kidneys to excrete wastes, concentrate urine, and conserve electrolytes. It is also known as kidney failure.
Renovascular Disease:
A disease in the blood vessels that lead to and from the kidney.
Saturated Fat:
A form of fat found in various types of foods, particularly animal products, that is readily converted into cholesterol in the body.
Serum Calcium:
A test that determines the level of calcium in a person’s blood.
Serum Potassium:
A test that determines the level of potassium in a person’s blood.
Statins:
Any of a group of lipid lowering drugs that function by inhibiting a liver enzyme, which controls the synthesis of cholesterol, and by promoting the production of LDL-binding receptors in the liver. Use of this drug generally results in a marked decrease in the level of LDL and a modest increase in the level of HDL circulating in blood plasma.
Stenosis:
A narrowing or constricting of a blood vessel or artery, often the result of atherosclerosis.
Stethoscope:
An instrument used to detect and study sounds produced in the body that are conveyed to the ears of the listener through rubber tubing connected with a cup-shaped piece placed upon the area to be examined.
Stroke:
An interruption of the blood flow to the brain, which leads to permanent damage and/or persistent symptoms.
Systolic Blood Pressure:
The force that your heart generates while the muscle is contracted, or the pressure when your heart is beating. It is the number on the top of your blood pressure reading.
Thrombus:
A blood clot.
Trans Fats:
Unsaturated fats that result when vegetable oils are made solid or are hydrogenated.
Triglycerides:
Another kind of lipid or “fat.” It is the chemical form taken by most fat in the foods you eat.
Tumor:
An abnormal benign or malignant mass of tissue that is not inflammatory, arises without obvious cause from cells of preexistent tissue, and possesses no physiological function.
Ultrasound:
A noninvasive procedure involving the use of sound waves to examine and measure internal body structures and detect bodily abnormalities. It is also called echocardiography, sonography, and ultrasonography.
Unsaturated Fats:
A fat or fatty acid in which there is at least one double bond within the fatty acid chain. A fatty acid chain is monounsaturated if it contains one double bond, and polyunsaturated if it contains more than one double bond.
Uric Acid:
A normal byproduct of cell metabolism that is excreted through the kidneys.
Urinalysis:
The analysis of the physical, chemical, and microbiological properties of urine, carried out to help diagnose disease, monitor treatment, or detect the presence of a specific substance.
Valves:
Structures that open and close in order to control the movement of blood between the heart chambers and the ventricles and major blood vessels. When functioning properly they permit blood to pass through without obstruction and also prevent it from leaking backward.
Venous:
Relating to or involving the veins. The term is used to describe blood in the veins, which is returning to the heart, as opposed to blood in the arteries, which is leaving the heart.
Ventricle:
One of the two lower chambers of the heart that receive blood from the atria, or upper chambers. The right ventricle pumps blood to the lungs and the left ventricle pumps blood to the rest of the body.
Very Low Density Lipoproteins (VLDL)
a lipoprotein composed mostly of cholesterol, with little protein. VLDL is often called “bad cholesterol” because it deposits cholesterol on the walls of arteries. Increased levels of VLDL are associated with atherosclerosis and coronary heart disease.