Glossary

A

Acetylsalicyclic acid (Aspirin™, ASA): A medication sometimes taken to help prevent a stroke or a heart attack. It works by preventing blood clots from forming.

Aneurysm: An aneurysm forms at the site of a weak spot on the wall of a blood vessel. Circulating blood pushes the weak spot out from the side of the vessel, forming a balloon-like structure. This structure can rupture. If this occurs in the brain, the result is a hemorrhagic stroke (or cerebral hemorrhage).

Angina: Angina is chest pain or discomfort you get when your heart muscle does not get enough blood. It may feel like pressure or a squezzing pain in your chest. It may feel like indigestion. You may also feel pain in your shoulders, arms, neck, jaw or back.

Angiotensin-converting-enzyme (ACE) inhibitors: These are medications that can help prevent another stroke or heart attack. They protect the blood vessels and organs from harmful changes and also lower blood pressure.

Angiotensin receptor blockers (ARBs): These are medications that can help prevent another stroke or heart attack. They protect the blood vessels and organs from harmful changes and also lower blood pressure.

Arrhythmias: An abnormal heartbeat (arrhythmia) is any variation in the normal heartbeat. Abnormal heartbeats occur when the heart has an irregular heart rhythm, beats too fast or beats too slow.

Atheroma: A yellow, sticky fatty substance that accumulates in the blood vessel wall. The process of accumulation is called atherosclerosis. Another word for atheroma is plaque.

Atherosclerosis: This is the process by which fatty substances known as plaque accumulate in the wall of blood vessels. The process occurs throughout the body. It can start as early as childhood and can eventually lead to many problems, including strokes and heart attacks.

Atherothrombosis: Occurs when a blood clot forms on fatty deposits in the wall of a blood vessel. The blood clot is called a thrombus and the fatty deposit in the blood vessel is referred to as plaque (atheroma). This process can occur in your legs (causing peripheral arterial disease), in your heart (causing a heart attack) or in your brain (causing a stroke).

B

Blood clot: Also know as a thrombus, a blood clot is formed when plaque form within the vessel wall is exposed to the circulating blood.

C

Calcium channel blockers: A group of medications that may be used to help lower blood pressure.

Cerebral: Referring to the brain.

Clopidogrel (Plavix): A medication that some people will be taking after a stroke to help prevent a stroke or heart attack. It works by preventing blood clots from forming.

Cholesterol: A waxy, fat-like substance that your body needs to work properly. The body tries to keep a balance of good cholesterol (HDL) and bad cholesterol (LDL).

Coronary artery disease: Coronary artery disease is caused by the buildup of plaque on the inside of the coronary arteries, the blood vessels that supply oxygen-rich blood to the heart muscle. Plaque is made up of excess cholesterol, calcium, and other substances that float in blood and, over time, build up on the inside walls of the coronary artery and other arteries.

D

Diuretics: These medications are used to lower blood pressure. They do so by helping the kidneys remove more salt and water from the body. This relaxes the blood vessel walls, which lowers blood pressure. Because they also make you urinate more frequently, diuretics are sometimes called “water pills”.

E

Embolic stroke: This occurs when a blood clot forms in a larger artery and a small piece (called an embolus) breaks off and is carried by the blood until it becomes stuck in a smaller artery, cutting off the blood supply to cells beyond that point.

H

HDL: High-density lipoprotein cholesterol is otherwise known as the “good” cholesterol. Having higher levels of HDL helps reduce the risk of heart attacks and strokes.

Heart attack: A heart attack occurs when the muscles of the heart do not get enough (or any) oxygen and nutrients. This can happen when a blood clot forms (atherothrombosis) in the blood vessels that supply the heart (the coronary arteries). Myocardial infarction?

Hemorrhagic stroke: This occurs when a blood vessel ruptures in the brain, causing damage to the cells in that area of the brain and cutting off blood supply from cells downstream of the rupture.

Hyperthyroidism: Hyperthroidism is a condition in which the thyroid gland does not produce enough thyroid hormone, which regulates the way the body uses energy.

I

Insulin: Insulin is a hormone produced in the pancreas that allows sugar (glucose) to enter body cells, where it is used for energy. It also helps the body store extra sugar in muscle, fat, and liver cells where it can be released and used for energy when needed. Diabetes develops if the body does not produce enough insulin or does not use insulin properly.

Insulin Resistance: Insulin resistance is a condition in which body cells do not fully respond to the action of insulin, a hormone that controls the amount of sugar (glucose) in the blood. As a result, the blood sugar levels become abnormally high. Over time, insulin resistance can result in consistently high blood sugar levels, which increases a person's risk for developing type 2 diabetes.

Ischemic stroke: This type of stroke accounts for about 80% of all strokes. When atherothrombosis occurs in a blood vessel that supplies the brain with blood, it is said to be an ischemic stroke.

L

LDL: Low-density lipoprotein cholesterol is otherwise known as the “bad” cholesterol. Having higher levels of LDL increases the risk of having a heart attack or stroke.

Lipid disorder: Lipid disorders are problems that affect the way cholesterol is produced, used, carried in the blood, or disposed of bu the body. People with lipid disorders develop very high total cholesterol levels, very low HDL (or “good”) cholesterol levels, and/or high triglyceride levels.

M

Minioke: If the interruption of the blood flow to your brain cells is only temporary, it is referred to as a minioke. This is also know as a transient ischemic attack, or TIA.

mmol/L: Some medical tests give results in millimoles per litre (mmol/L). A mole is an amount of a substance that contains a large number (6 followed by 23 zeros) of molecules or atoms. A millimole is one-thousandth of a mole.
A litre measures fluid volume. It is a little bigger than a quart.

Modifiable risk factors: Risk factors are characteristics of your lifestyle or health status. Modifiable risk factors are those characteristics that you and your healthcare team can change to lower your risk, like high blood pressure or cigarette smoking.

N

Non-modifiable risk factors: Risk factors are characteristics of your lifestyle or health status. Non-modifiable risk factors are those characteristics that neither you nor your healthcare team can change, like your age or family history.

P

Plaque: A yellow, sticky, fatty substance that accumulates in the blood vessel wall. The process of accumulation is called atherosclerosis. Another word for plaque is atheroma.

S

Spirometry: Spirometry is a device that is used to measure that amount of air a person's lungs can move in and out and at what rate.

Statins: Statins are a type of medicine used to treat high cholesterol. These medicines block an enzyme the body needs to produce cholesterol, therby lowering the total amount of it in the blood. Statins, also known as HMG-CoA reductase inhibitors, help reduce the risk of heart attack and stroke. Along with reducing cholesterol levels in the blood, statins reduce inflammation around the cholesterol buildup (called a plaque). By stabilizing the plaque, there is less risk that it will rupture and cause a blood clot that can lead to a heart attack or stroke.

Stroke: A stroke is what happens as a result of the blood supply being cut off from brain cells. Strokes can cause death or, if the person survives, can cause many difficulties.

T

Thrombus: A blood clot that forms inside a blood vessel or chamber of the heart.

TIA: If the interruption of the blood flow to your brain cells is only temporary, it is referred to as a TIA, which stands for transient ischemic attack. Another word for TIA is a minioke.

Triglycerides: Triglycerides are a type of fat that is found in the blood. They are the most common type of fat and are a major source of energy.

W

Warfarin: A medication that is used in patients with abnormal heart rhythms to prevent the formation of a blood clot.

White-coat Hypertension: White-coat (or office) hypertension refers to blood pressure that rises above its usual level when it is measured in a clinic setting, such as a doctor's office, where a doctor or nurse may be wearing a white lab coat.