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Other Specific Conditions > Heart Disease & Stroke > Heart Disease and Stroke Glossary
aneurysm:  a permanent abnormal bulging weak or thin spot on a blood vessel caused by disease of the vessel wall.  The bursting of an aneurysm in a brain blood vessel causes a hemorrhagic stroke.  Aneurysms are usually present at birth and develop over a number of years, undetected until they break. 
angina pectoris:  chest pain caused by impairment in blood flow through the coronary arteries that feed the heart.

anticoagulant agents:  drugs used in stroke prevention therapy to prevent blood clots from forming or growing.  Anticoagulants interfere with the production of certain blood components necessary for clot formation.

aphasia:  the loss or reduction of the ability to speak, read, write, or understand, due to dysfunction of brain centers.

apoplexy:   Latin word for stroke, derived from the Greek word plesso.  Apoplexy was defined as “a stroke of God’s hands.”

arrhythmias:  changes in the normal rhythm of the heartbeats.  Some can be quite serious.

atherosclerosis:  a hardening or buildup of cholesterol plaque and other fatty deposits in the arteries.

blood cholesterol:   the blood concentration of a family of lipid or "fatty" molecular compounds obtained directly from the diet or produced in the body from fatty dietary components; a necessary factor in development of atherosclerosis; total cholesterol concentration is classified as "high" if it is greater than or equal to 200 mg/dl.  Subtypes of cholesterol differ in their relation to cardiovascular risk, with high-density lipoprotein (HDL) cholesterol considered "good," and low-density lipoprotein cholesterol (LDL) considered "bad."

brain attack:  a term that more accurately describes the effect and action of stroke on the brain.

cardiovascular disease(s):   may refer to any of the disorders that can affect the circulatory system, but often means coronary heart disease (CHD), heart failure, and stroke, taken together.

cardiovascular health:   a combination of favorable health habits and conditions that protects against development of cardiovascular diseases.

carotid stenosis:  narrowing of the carotid arteries caused by a buildup of plaque.

coronary heart disease:   heart disease caused by 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.

diabetes (or diabetes mellitus):  a metabolic disorder resulting from insufficient production or utilization of insulin, commonly leading to cardiovascular complications.

dysphagia:  inability to or difficulty in swallowing.

embolic stroke:  a stroke resulting from the blockage of an artery by a blood clot.

embolism:  a term used to describe the blockage of a blood vessel by a blood clot originating in another area of the body, usually the heart.

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").

heart disease:   any affliction that impairs the structure or function of the heart (e.g., atherosclerotic and hypertensive diseases, congenital heart disease, rheumatic heart disease, and cardiomyopathies).

heart failure:  impairment of the pumping function of the heart as the result of heart disease; heart failure often causes physical disability and increased risk for other cardiovascular disease (CVD) events.

hemorrhagic stroke:  a stroke caused by a ruptured blood vessel and characterized by bleeding within the brain, or bleeding into the space between the brain and the skull.  Hemorrhagic strokes account for 17% of all strokes and are more devastating than the ischemic type.

high blood pressure:  a condition in which the pressure in the arterial circulation is greater than desired; associated with increased risk for heart disease, stroke, chronic kidney disease, and other conditions; blood pressure is considered "high" if systolic pressure (measured at the peak of contraction of the heart) is greater than or equal to 140 mm Hg, or if diastolic pressure (measured at the fullest relaxation of the heart) is greater than or equal to 90 mm Hg.

hypertensive heart disease:  abnormality in the structure and function of the heart caused by long-standing high blood pressure; often manifests as heart failure.

infarct:  the immediate area of brain cell death caused by a stroke.  When the brain cells in the infarct die, they release chemicals that set off a chain reaction that endangers brain cells in a larger surrounding area, known as the penumbra.

ischemia:  an interruption or blockage of blood flow to the heart or brain.

modifiable characteristics:  factors related to cardiovascular disease (CVD) risk that can be changed or controlled (e.g., diet, physical activity, smoking), in contrast to those that are unmodifiable, and unable to be changed or controlled by the individual (e.g., age, sex, race, genetic traits).

mortality:   rate of death expressed as the number of deaths occurring in a population of given size within a specified time interval (e.g., 265 annual deaths from heart disease per 100,000 U.S. Hispanic women, 1991–1995).

obesity:   usually defined in terms of body mass index (BMI), which is calculated as body weight in kilograms (1 kg = 2.2 lbs) divided by height in meters (1 m = 39.37 in) squared; adults with a BMI of greater than or equal to 30.0 kg/m2 are considered "obese," and those with a BMI of 25–29.9 kg/m2 are considered "overweight." In children, overweight is defined as a BMI greater than the 95th percentile value for the same age and sex group.

physical inactivity:   lack of habitual activity sufficient to maintain good health, resulting in an unfavorable balance between energy intake and expenditure and fostering the development of overweight or obesity and other risk factors for heart disease and stroke.

risk behavior:  a behavioral pattern associated with increased frequency of specified health problems; for example, high salt, high fat, low fiber intake, and cigarette smoking are all associated with cardiovascular disease.

risk factor:  an individual characteristic associated with increased frequency of specified health problems or risk behaviors; for example, a high low-density lipoprotein (LDL) cholesterol, high blood pressure, overweight/obesity, and diabetes are all associated with cardiovascular disease.

stroke:  sudden interruption of blood supply to the brain caused by an obstruction or the rupture of a blood vessel.

survival:   remaining alive for a specified period (e.g., beyond the 28-day definition of case fatality) after a cardiovascular disease event.

transient ischemic attack:  called TIA, this is a temporary interruption of the blood supply to an area of the brain, typically caused by carotid stenosis.  During a TIA, a person experiences a sudden onset of stroke symptoms.  By definition, a TIA can last up to 24 hours, but most last only a few minutes and cause no permanent damage or disability.  Sometimes called “mini-strokes,” TIAs must be taken seriously because they are usually a precursor to full strokes.  Of persons who experience TIAs, up to 20% have a stroke within one year.