Heart Conditions 

Here is a glossary of key cardiac conditions.



Aneurysm:  Weakening of the wall of an artery, resulting in its enlargement or bulge.

Angina: Pain, pressure or tightness felt in the chest due to insufficient blood supply to the heart, generally as the result of atherosclerosis of the coronary arteries, usually experienced during exercise or stress.

Arrhythmia (Dysrhythmia): An abnormal rhythm of the heart. Arrhythmia can occur in a healthy heart and be of minimal consequence. It also may indicate a serious problem and lead to heart disease, stroke or sudden cardiac death.

Atherosclerosis (Arteriosclerotic Vascular Disease or ASVD): A hardening or buildup of cholesterol plaque and other fatty deposits in the arteries.

Atrial Fibrillation (AF or A-Fib): The most common cardiac arrhythmia (abnormal heart rhythm) that involves the two upper chambers (atria) of the heart; the condition may increase the risk of stroke in some patients.

Atrial Septal Defect (ASD): A form of congenital heart defect that enables blood flow between the left and right atria via the interatrial septum.

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Bradycardia:  A slow heart rate, usually defined as less than 60 beats per minute in an adult.

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Cardiac Arrest:  Sudden, abrupt loss of heart function.

Cardiomyopathy: A disease in which the heart muscle becomes weakened and does not pump as well as it should.

Cardiovascular Disease:  Any of the disorders that can affect the circulatory system, but often refers collectively to coronary heart disease (CHD), heart failure, and stroke.

Carotid Artery Disease: Atherosclerosis in the arteries that supply blood to the brain.

Congestive Heart Failure: A condition that develops when the heart’s pumping ability diminishes due to blockages or restriction of blood flow. With heart failure, the weakened heart cannot supply the cells with enough blood, resulting in fatigue and shortness of breath.

Coronary Artery Disease (CAD): A condition that develops when the coronary arteries narrow. If blood flow is restricted to the point where insufficient oxygen reaches the heart muscle, chest pain (angina), heart attack (myocardial infarction), or cardiac arrest may occur.

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Embolism: The sudden blocking of an artery, most often caused by a blood clot.

Endocarditis: Infection of the heart’s inner lining (endocardium) and valves. Bacterial endocarditis occurs when bacteria in the bloodstream (bacteremia) lodge on abnormal heart valves or other damaged heart tissue.

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Heart attack (Coronary Thrombosis, Myocardial Infarction or MI): A sudden condition when the heart muscle, or myocardium, stops functioning due to a loss of blood supply.

Heart failure (Congestive Heart Failure): A condition that occurs when the heart is unable to pump blood efficiently, so that the body's need for oxygen is not being met.

High Blood Pressure/Hypertension: The heart pumps blood in a loop through the body: out through the arteries, back through the veins. Blood pressure is the force in the arteries when the heart beats (systolic pressure) and when the heart is at rest (diastolic pressure) measured in millimeters of mercury (mm Hg). High blood pressure directly increases the risk of coronary heart disease.

Hypercholesterolemia/Hyperlipidemia: Chronic condition due to high levels of cholesterol in the blood, largely exacerbated by diet. Small fat deposits beneath the skin can signal hypercholesterolemia. Familial hypercholesterolemia is a rare genetically inherited disorder that causes severe high cholesterol beginning at birth and is unrelated to diet.

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Ischemia: An interruption or blockage of blood flow to the heart or brain.

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Mitral Valve Prolapse: A bulge in the valve between the left atrium and the left ventricle of the heart that causes backward flow of the blood into the atrium.

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Patent Formen Ovale (PFO):  A condition where the opening in the left and right atria (upper chambers) does not close normally during birth. The condition afflicts one in five people -- and can result in stroke if not treated.

Peripheral Artery Disease (PAD) or Peripheral Vascular Disease (PVD):  A condition in which the arteries that carry blood to the arms or legs become narrowed or clogged. This condition is similar to atherosclerotic cardiovascular disease, coronary artery disease, or coronary heart disease except that it involves arteries outside of the heart.

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Restenosis:  Renarrowing of an artery that has been opened during angioplasty.

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Stenosis:  Narrowing of an artery, usually caused by a buildup of plaque.

Stroke: Damage and/or death of a portion of the brain due to loss of blood supply. Symptoms vary depending on the area of the brain affected.

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Vascular Disease:  Any dysfunction or disease concerning the network of blood vessels that circulate blood to and from the heart and lungs. The blood vessels that comprise the vascular system are part of the circulatory (or cardiovascular) system, of which the heart is the major organ.

Hahnemann University Hospital | 230 N Broad St, Philadelphia, PA 19102