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Heart Failure Lexicon - Part 1

Whether you are new to heart failure or have dealt with it for years, there are many terms that doctors use that sound like they are in a different language! I wanted to take some time to break down some of these terms and define exactly what they mean. This article will be broken up into two parts. I’ll keep them in alphabetical order for simplicity’s sake. Part one will encompass A through C because there are a ton of cardiac terms that fall between those letters.

A terms

Ablation is the removal or destruction of faulty electrical pathways in the heart.

Aldosterone Antagonist is also known as antimineralocorticoid or (MCRA). This is a diuretic medication that increases sodium absorption by the kidneys. This type of medication is often used in combination with other drugs to treat heart failure.

Anemia is when a person has a low number of red blood cells in the body.

Angiotensin Receptor Blocker (ARB) are medications that relax (dilate) blood vessels which in turn makes it easier for the heart to pump blood.

Angiotensin Converting Enzyme Inhibitor (ACE-Inhibitor) is used to treat mainly high blood pressure and heart failure. ACE inhibitors relax the blood vessels which in turn lowers blood pressure.

Antiarrhythmics are medications that prevent cardiac arrhythmia.

Arrhythmia is when the heart beats in an abnormal rhythm.

Atria are the top two chambers of the heart. They receive blood from the veins within the body.

B terms

Beta Blockers are medications that work by blocking the effects of epinephrine hormone which causes the heart to beat more slowly which lowers blood pressure.

Bradycardia is an abnormally slow heart rate, generally classified as beating less than 60 beats per minute.

C terms

Calcium Channel Blockers are a class of medications that block the entrance of calcium which reduces the electrical conduction of the heart as well as dilates the arteries. This reduces blood pressure.

Cardiac Catheterization is a procedure used to diagnose different heart conditions. It involves inserting a long thin tube/wire into the heart through either the groin or neck and goes through the blood vessels into your heart.

Cardiac Output is defined by the volume of blood that is pumped by the heart from the left or right ventricle in a unit of time. It is summarized by the total amount of blood pumped by the heart through the circulatory system in one minute. Normal cardiac output for an adult is 4.7 liters of blood per minute.

Cardiomyopathy is a disease of the heart muscle. It makes it harder for the heart to pump blood to the body. Cardiomyopathy often causes an irregular rhythm which can lead to heart failure and arrhythmias.

Congestive Heart Failure (CHF) also known as Heart Failure is the weakening of the hearts pumping power which leads to a backup of fluid in the lungs and rest of the body, like the legs and feet.

Coronary Artery Disease (CAD) is the most common type of heart disease. The arteries become hardened and narrow due to buildup of plaque from cholesterol and other material. The arteries can be partially or completely blocked.

Stay tuned for part two of the heart failure lexicon where I will continue to define some commonly heard heart failure terms through the alphabet from D on!

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