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Cardiac Dictionary for Letter A

Acute - Short course, intense.

Acute Aortic Dissection - A severe condition in which a weakened portion of the aorta tears along the vessel. The main symptom is sudden, severe chest pain that may radiate to the back. Common risk factors for this event are atherosclerotic vascular disease and hypertension.

Acute Vascular Occlusion - The sudden blockage of an artery, usually with a blood clot.

Adams-Stokes Syndrome - A state of sudden fainting caused by a heart block. Seizures may also happen.

Adult Onset Diabetes (non-insulin-dependent diabetes mellitus) - A type of diabetes mellitus in which patients are not dependent on injections of insulin. The disease usually begins after 40 years of age, but can occur at any age. About 60% to 90% of patients are overweight. In these patients, the condition is often improved by weight loss.There are probably several causes for the development of diabetes mellitus. One is that the patient is born with the likelihood of getting it.

Aerated - Containing air; aerated blood from the arteries - contains a higher level of oxygen.

Alcoholic Cardiomiopathy - A weakness of the cardiac muscle, which is found in some chronic alcoholics. May be related to a thiamin (B6 vitamin) deficiency or occur for unknown reasons.

Anemia - A less than normal amount of red blood cells at the blood count analysis. Symptoms include pallor of he skin, shortness of breath, heart palpitations and fatigue.

Aneurysm - A sac formed by the enlargement of a portion of the wall of an artery, a vein or the heart. The physical signs of arterial aneurysm are the formation of a pulsating tumor and often a noise heard over the swelling.

Angina - A severe pain often accompanied with a sensation of pressure or tightness in the chest (in the area of the heart). Occurs suddenly and/or intermittently as a result of sudden contraction of the coronary arteries and their branches. Also called angina pectoris.

Angiogram - An X-ray diagnostic procedure used to visualize the blood vessels following injection of a contrast substance into an artery. Used to image arteries in the brain, heart, kidneys, gastrointestinal tract, aorta, neck (carotids), chest, limbs and pulmonary circuit.

Angiopathy - Disease of the blood vessels (arteries, veins, and capillaries) that occurs when someone has diabetes for a long time.

Angioplasty - The surgical repair of a blood vessel. A balloon angioplasty is a noninvasive procedure where a balloon-tipped catheter (thin tube) is introduced into a diseased blood vessel. As the balloon is inflated, the vessel opens allowing an improved flow of blood.

Antihypertensive - A drug that reduces high blood pressure.

Aorta - The main artery of the body. It starts at the opening of the heart’s lower left chamber (ventricle). In the belly, it narrows and branches into the two common iliac arteries that supply blood to the legs.

Aortic Regurgitation - Leakage of the blood from the aorta, back through the aortic valve, into the left ventricle.

Aortic Stenosis - Narrowing of the aorta.

Arrhythmia - Any variation from the normal rhythm of the heartbeat. Includes affections like: sinus arrhythmia, premature beat, heart block, atrial fibrillation, atrial flutter, and paroxystic tachycardia.

Arterial Embolism - A sudden interruption in arterial blood flow to an organ or body extremity. The blockage is caused by a blot clot or atherosclerotic plaque that has moved through the arterial circulation from one position to another.

Arteries - The vessels in the body that supply oxygenated blood to the tissues.

Arteritis - a swelling condition (or inflammation) of the walls of one or more arteries. It may occur as a disease in itself. It also may go together with another disorder, as rheumatoid arthritis and rheumatic fever.

Arteriosclerosis - Imprecise term used for various disorders of arteries, with hardening of the walls due to fibrosis or calcium deposition. Often used as a synonym for atherosclerosis. see Atherosclerosis.

Artery - A vessel that carries oxygenated blood from the heart to other parts of the body.

Artificial Heart Valve - A synthetic or porcine (pigskin) valve surgically placed into the heart to replace a defective or malfunctioningvalve. The aortic and mitral valves are the most frequently replaced with artificial valves.

Asthenia - Nervous lack of strength and anxiety leading to chest pain, palpitations, faintness, breathlessness, weakness or any other number of cardiac symptoms, unrelated to heart disease. Usually brought on by long periods of physical exertion and mental stress.

Atherosclerosis - Lipid (fat) deposits, causing narrowing of the arteries and resulting in coronary artery disease. It occurs to some degree with aging, but other risk factors that accelerate this process have been identified - high cholesterol, high blood pressure, smoking, diabetes and family history for atherosclerotic disease.

Atria - The plural form of atrium. see Atrium

Atrial Fibrillation - A condition where disorganized electrical conduction in the atrial walls results in ineffective pumping of blood into the ventricle.

Atrial Flutter - A rapid well-organized contraction of the atrium at a rate of 250-350 contractions per minute. Ventricular beats are usually some multiple of 300. ECG shows saw tooth waves. Atrial flutter is considered a serious and potentially unstable rhythm.

Atrial Septal Defect - An inherited condition where there is no closure of the foramen ovale at birth, resulting in congenital heart disease. Usually asymptomatic until the third or fourth decades of life.

Atrioventricular Block - A conduction disturbance that consists of a delay (or complete inability) of a electrical impulse, generated in the atria, to reach the ventricles. Clinical types are divided into first (least serious), second and third degree (most serious). Some drugs may precipitate atrioventricular block (for example clonidine, methyldopa, verapamil). A permanent pacemaker may be required for a third degree (complete) heart block.

Atrium - In the heart, the atrium is an upper chamber found on both sides of the heart. The left atrium receives red, oxygenated blood from the lungs by way of the pulmonary veins. The right atrium receives dark red blood from the other parts of the body.

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