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Angiotensin converting enzyme (ACE) inhibitors: One kind of medicine used to treat hypertension (high blood pressure) by preventing the body from making the hormone angiotensin II. This hormone causes blood vessels to narrow, which can raise blood pressure. ACE inhibitors allow the vessels to expand (widen) and allow more blood to flow to the heart, which lowers blood pressure. These medicines are also used to treat congestive heart failure, to protect the kidneys in people with diabetes, and to treat people who have had a heart attack. They might also be used to help prevent heart attacks and strokes in high-risk individuals.

Atherosclerosis: The build-up of fatty deposits within the arteries, eventually causing a blockage of blood flow or stiffening of the artery walls

Balloon angioplasty: A procedure in which a small balloon at the tip of the catheter (see cardiac catheterization) is inflated inside a narrowed artery to stretch it open and increase blood flow

Beta blockers: One kind of medicine used to treat hypertension, chest pain, and irregular heartbeat, and to help prevent future heart attacks. Beta blockers work by blocking the effects of adrenaline in various parts of the body. They lower the heart rate and relieve stress to the heart so that it requires less blood and oxygen. The heart doesn’t have to work as hard, which lowers blood pressure. Beta blockers also work on blood vessels to relax the vessel walls and lower blood pressure.

Calcium channel blockers: One kind of hypertension medicine that slows the movement of calcium into the cells of the heart and the walls of the arteries (blood vessels that carry blood from the heart to the tissues). This relaxes the arteries and reduces the pressure in the blood vessels. Some calcium channel blockers also lower the heart rate.

Cardiac catheterization: A procedure in which a catheter (a small flexible tube) is inserted into an artery and guided to the arteries in the heart to look for blockages and determine pressure and blood flow in the heart

Carotid artery: An artery on the neck that supplies blood to the brain

Carotid endarterectomy: Surgery to remove plaque in the carotid artery

Computed tomography (CT) scan: A test during which an X-ray beam rotates around the patient, and detectors measure the amount of X-rays that go through the patient. A computer constructs a cross-sectional image of the data.

Congestive heart failure: The inability of the heart to adequately pump blood. This can be caused by a number of factors, including untreated hypertension and heart attacks.

Corticosteroids: Natural hormones, or a group of drugs that are similar to the natural hormones produced by the adrenal glands. There are two main types of corticosteroids: glucocorticoids, which have anti-inflammatory effects (help reduce swelling), and mineralocorticoids, which are necessary for salt and water balance.

Cyclosporine: A drug that organ transplant patients take to suppress the immune system in order to keep their bodies from rejecting the transplant

DASH diet: The Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension (DASH) diet. The DASH diet calls for a certain number of servings daily from various food groups, including more daily servings of fruits, vegetables, and whole grain foods.

Diastolic blood pressure: The lowest pressure of blood against the walls of the arteries when the heart relaxes between beats

Diuretics: One kind of medicine used to treat hypertension. Diuretics act on the kidneys to remove excess salt from the blood. This increases the flow of urine and the need to urinate. This, in turn, reduces the amount of water in the body, which helps lower blood pressure.

Echocardiogram: A test that uses a device to bounce sound waves off the heart to create an image. The image shows the blood flow in the heart’s chambers.

Electrocardiogram (EKG or ECG): A diagnostic test that measures the electrical activity, rate, and rhythm of the heartbeat via electrodes that are attached to the patient’s arms, legs, and chest

Essential hypertension: High blood pressure that does not have an apparent cause. The vast majority (95 percent) of high blood pressure is essential hypertension.

Exercise stress test: A test in which electrocardiogram readings are taken while the patient exercises on a treadmill or stationary bicycle to increase the heart rate to a predetermined point

Erythropoietin: A hormone that stimulates production of red blood cells. It is used to treat anemia caused by chronic (long-term) diseases.

Heart attack: Damage to the heart muscle caused by loss of blood flow to the heart

Hypertension: High blood pressure

Hypertensive emergency: A severe elevation (rise) in blood pressure that can lead to organ damage, including encephalopathy (brain damage), heart attack, heart failure, hemorrhagic stroke (bleeding into the brain), eclampsia (a condition in which pregnant women retain water and have hypertension, protein in the urine, and seizures), and arterial bleeding

Hypertensive retinopathy: Damage, caused by hypertension, to the blood vessels in the retina (the area at the back of the eye that contains the cells that are sensitive to light)

Hypertensive urgency: A form of hypertensive crisis. Hypertensive urgency is a range of situations that includes high blood pressure and organ damage (already present, or getting worse) caused by high blood pressure.

Hypertrophic cardiomyopathy: A condition in which the heart muscle becomes enlarged and too thick to function as it should. This thickening might reduce the size of the heart chambers, keep the heart valves from working properly, or block the flow of blood out of the heart.

Ischemic heart disease: A condition caused by a decrease in blood flow to the heart. This decrease is usually the result of narrowed coronary arteries, which slows down the blood flow.

Kidney failure (end stage renal disease): A condition in which the kidney cannot filter and excrete (get rid of) waste products

Magnetic resonance imaging (MRI): A medical test that uses magnets to study images of the body. As in a CT scan, a computer constructs an image of the body from the magnetic information. This test is particularly useful for studying soft tissues (such as organs in the body).

Magnetic resonance arteriography (MRA): A type of MRI test that provides detailed pictures of blood vessels, and can reveal where arteries might be narrowed or where blood flow is blocked

Potassium: An electrolyte that is used to make energy for all muscles, including heart muscles

Proteinuria: The presence of protein in the urine. This might indicate kidney disease or damage.

Secondary hypertension: High blood pressure that is caused by conditions such as alcohol or drug abuse, pregnancy, kidney disorders, or taking certain medicines

Sphygmomanometer: A device that is used to measure blood pressure. The sphygmomanometer consists of an arm cuff, dial, pump, and valve.

Stent: A metal device that is used to hold tissue in place. A stent can keep blood vessels open after a surgical procedure or heart catheterization.

Stroke: An interruption of the blood supply in the brain that results in damaged brain tissue. An interruption can be caused by clots that block blood flow, or by bleeding in the brain from a ruptured blood vessel or a significant injury.

Systolic blood pressure: The highest force of blood against the walls of the artery when the heart contracts or squeezes blood into the blood vessels

TIA (transient ischemic attack): A "mini-stroke," or a warning of a potential stroke. A TIA takes place when blood flow to part of the brain is briefly interrupted.

TPA: A thrombolytic agent, or “clot buster” medicine. TPA might be used as a treatment for acute ischemic stroke (a stroke that happens suddenly and is caused by a clot that is blocking blood flow to part of the brain).

Ultrasound: A test that uses high-frequency sound waves to create images of body organs and systems


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This information is provided by the Cleveland Clinic and is not intended to replace the medical advice of your doctor or health care provider. Please consult your health care provider for advice about a specific medical condition. This document was last reviewed on: 5/17/2017...#12273