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Glossary of Terms

Our A-Z Glossary of terms you will find throughout our website.. more more


24 hour BP or 24 hour blood pressure monitor

A small device worn on a belt clip which is attached to a blood pressure cuff around the arm. Blood pressure is recorded periodically over a 24 hour period and automatically recorded. This gives an accurate measure of a person’s average blood pressure at home and may be used to show white coat syndrome.

24 hour ECG (or Holter recording)

A small device worn on a belt clip which is attached to 3 electrodes placed on the chest. The device can record each and every heart beat over a 24 hour period to show if there are any abnormalities of heart rhythm.


A2 Blocker (ARB – A2 Receptor Blocker)

A type of blood pressure tablet.


A technique using radio-frequency to cause a controlled burn to different areas of the heart which is used in the treatment of irregular and fast heart beats.

Ace inhibitors

A class of drug (e.g. enalapril, perindopril, ramipril) used in the treatment of heart failure (weakened heart muscle), high blood pressure, and coronary artery disease.

Ambulatory BP (or 24 hour BP)

A small device worn on a belt clip which is attached to a blood pressure cuff around the arm. Blood pressure is recorded periodically over a 24 hour period and automatically recorded. This gives an accurate measure of a person’s average blood pressure at home and may be used to show white coat syndrome.


A potent drug used for the treatment of fast often irregular heart beats.


Chest pain which occurs because the heart does not get enough blood. The pain is usually in the centre of the chest and feels like a tightness or squeezing pain. It usually occurs at times when the heart requires more blood e.g. when walking or when anxious. Most commonly due to narrowing within the arteries of the heart (atherosclerosis). This is a form of coronary artery disease.

Angiogram (or coronary angiogram, cardiac catheterisation)

A picture of the blood vessels of your heart by using a cardiac catheter and an x-ray. This procedure is used to diagnose coronary artery disease.

Angioplasty (or PTCA)

A form of key hole surgery used to treat coronary artery disease (angina). This involves the passage of a deflated balloon to the coronary arteries via an artery in the top of the leg or at the wrist. The balloon is inflated at the narrowing in the artery to open up the artery. A metal spring called a stent is then usually positioned at this site to prevent it re-narrowing.

Aortic regurgitation

Leaking of the aortic valve which may cause breathlessness, fatigue and very occasionally angina.

Aortic stenosis

Furring of the aortic valve which restricts its opening. This can cause breathlessness, dizziness, blackouts and angina.

Aortic valve

A one way valve separating the aorta from the main pumping chamber of the heart (left ventricle).


Any irregular heart beat.


Atrial septal defect. This is a type of ‘hole in the heart’ or a communication between the two atria (upper chambers) of the heart.


One of the beta blocker class of drugs.


One of the statins.


There are 4 heart chambers. Two on each side (left and right). The right side of the heart pumps blood from the peripheries through the lungs. The left heart pumps blood from the lungs to the peripheries. The chamber into which blood is first received is called the atrium (pl. atria) – there is one on the left and one on the right and they are above the ventricles.

Atrial fibrillation

A form of arrhythmia. Normally the atria are responsible for pacing the heart in a regular rhythm. An electrical storm within the atria gives rise to this irregular heart beat or atrial fibrillation which can cause the heart to beat irregularly and fast. This can cause palpitations and breathlessness but may sometimes not be noticed.

Atrial flutter

A variant of atrial fibrillation except that the electrical storm is more organised often giving rise to a more regular albeit fast heart beat.

Atrial tachycardia

A fast heart beat driven by the atria.


Beta blockers

A class of drugs (e.g. atenolol, bisoprolol) used in the treatment of angina, heart failure and high blood pressure.


A type of beta blocker.

Biventricular pacemakers

A special kind of pacemaker often with 3 leads in the heart used for treating weakened heart muscle (heart failure). Sometimes called cardiac resynchronisation therapy.


An artery at the elbow. Very rarely used to perform coronary angiography.


Calcium channel blockers

A class of dugs (amlodopine, diltiazem) used to treat angina, and high blood pressure.


A type of A2 receptor blocking drug.

Cardiac arrest

This is when the heart beats so fast during a tachycardia that no blood is actually pumped out of the heart. Cardiac arrest can occasionally correct itself, but usually requires a defibrillator immediately to correct the heart rhythm.

Cardiac catheter

(see angiogram)

Cardiac resynchronisation therapy

Pacemaker treatment for weakened heart muscle (heart failure) using 3 leads in the heart, one of which activates the left ventricle.

Cardiac rehabilitation (or rehab)

Expert support and advice for patients who have a history of heart disease – includes a specially designed exercise programme.


Disease of the heart muscle. Usually due to weakening of the heart muscle but can be due to stiffness or thickening of heart muscle.


A class of beta blocker.


A form in which fat is transported around the body. High levels of cholesterol increase the risk of coronary artery disease.


Pains in the legs and calves on walking causing by narrowing in the arteries of the legs.


A drug used to thin blood by interfering with platelets (blood cells which cause blood to clot). Often used in patients with coronary artery disease and after an angioplasty.

Coated stents

Stents coated in a drug which has been shown to reduce the risk of re-narrowing.

Coronary angiography

(see angiogram)

Coronary bypass

Surgical treatment of coronary artery disease which involves the bypass of narrowings in heart arteries with veins from the leg or arteries from the chest wall.

Coronary thrombus

The formation of a clot in the heart arteries which causes heart attacks and unstable angina.



Devices used to restart a heart if a heart stops because of an electrical storm. Very small devices are now available which can be implanted in patients (see cardiac arrest).


An abnormality in the fats in the bloods (usually too high or wrong proportions of the different types).



Electron beam CT. This measures the calcium deposited in heart arteries which reflects narrowings in heart arteries.

ECG (or electrocardiogram)

A painless recording of the electrical activity of the heart measured by placing electrodes on the skin. Identifying abnormalities in the heart’s electrical activity is a quick easy way to help diagnose any heart problems present.


A form of ultrasound which can be used to assess heart function and heart valves.

Ejection fraction

A measure of blood pumped out of the heart with each heart beat. This can be established by echocardiography.


A class of ace inhibitor.

Event recorder

A form of 24 hour ECG which patients typically keep for a week. It can be activated when patients experience their palpitations so identifying any potential abnormal heart rhythms.

Exercise test

A graded form of exercise on a powered treadmill during continued ECG monitoring which can be used to diagnose angina.

F – G


An artery at the top of the leg.


A drug used to treat arrhythmias.



Hypertrophic cardiomyopathy. A form of thickened heart muscle.

Heart failure

The symptoms of a weakened heart muscle. The heart is unable to pump as much blood as the body needs, making you feel tired, short of breath and often causing fluid congestion in the ankles and the lungs.


See dyslipidaemia


High blood pressure.

I – J – K

Implantable defibrillator or ICD

A small potentially life-saving device implanted near the shoulder to restart the heart if it stops. It has wires (or leads) which enter the heart to deliver an electric pulse.

Implantable loop recorder

A small electrical recording device which can be buried under the skin and used to look for arrhythmias.


(see myocardial infarction)


A class of A2 receptor blocker.


A new type of drug for the treatment of angina.



Another word for cholesterol.

Left ventricle or LV

The main pumping chamber of the heart which pumps blood from the lungs to the peripheries.



A class of beta blocker.

Mitral regurgitation

A leak across the mitral valve, often causing breathlessness or a murmur.

Mitral stenosis

Narrowing of the mitral valve, often causing breathlessness, palpitations or a murmur.

Mitral valve

A one way valve separating the left ventricle from the left atrium.


Magnetic resonance imaging. Used to take detailed pictures of the heart to look for problems with the structure of the heart.

Multi slice CT

An emerging imaging tool for looking at coronary arteries.

Myocardial Infarction

Death of part of the heart muscle due to interruption in coronary artery blood supply.

N – O


A drug used in the treatment of angina.


A class of drugs used in the treatment of angina.

P – Q


Small electronic devices implanted under the skin with electrical wires (or leads) into the heart and are used to regulate the heart beat.


A type of ace inhibitor.


Patent foramen ovale. A small connection between the atria which is typically present before birth and closes off after birth. In a proportion of people it may remain open after birth and is associated with a risk of stroke in young people and possibly migraines. At type of ‘hole in the heart’.


A type of beta blocker.

Pulmonary valve

A one way valve between the right ventricle and pulmonary artery.



An artery at the wrist.


A type of ace inhibitor.


Re-narrowing. Usually refers to re-narrowing within an artery following angioplasty.

Rheumatic fever

A relapsing fever, now uncommon in the UK which can damage heart valves.


A type of statin.



A type of statin.


A type of drug used to treat high cholesterol (or hyperlipidaemia). They have also been shown to be of benefit in people with heart disease who do not have particularly high cholesterol levels.


A metal spring used to reinforce an artery following angioplasty.

Stress echo (or stress echocardiogram)

A form of ultrasound of the heart to look at problems with blood supply into different parts of heart muscle.



A fast heart rate.

Thallium scan

A special scan used to examine blood flow into heart muscle.


A blood clot.


Transoesophageal echo. A very sensitive ultrasound (or echocardiogram) scan of the heart which involves swallowing a very thin probe.

Treadmill test

(see exercise test)

Tricuspid valve

A one way valve between the right atrium and right ventricle.


A substance released from heart muscle following a heart attack, measured by doing a blood test.


Unstable angina

Chest pain due to narrowing of the heart arteries. Pain comes on either at rest or with little activity.



The main pumping chambers of the heart – there is one on the left and one on the right and they are underneath the atria.

Ventricular tachycardia

A fast heart rate driven by the ventricles.

VSD (or ventricular septal defect)

A hole between the ventricles.

W – X – Y – Z


A tablet used to thin blood and prevent blood clots and strokes. When taking warfarin your blood levels need to be monitored regularly.

White coat syndrome

Blood pressure is sensitive and can become raised with the stress of having it measured – ‘white coat syndrome’ or ‘white coat hypertension’. This gives a false high reading and can be overcome with a 24 hour blood pressure monitoring device.