Facebook Pixel

Heart Disease

Cardiovascular Glossary of Terms


Code STEMI Response Team: WakeMed Heart and Vascular’s specialized cardiac team works with Wake County EMS and WakeMed’s Emergency Department and Catheterization Lab to expedite care for patients suffering from heart attacks and acute coronary syndrome.

Heart disease includes hundreds of conditions — from coronary artery disease, heart failure and cardiac arrhythmias to congenital heart conditions, valve problems and aortic aneurysms.

WakeMed’s specialized cardiologists and cardiothoracic surgeons expertly evaluate and treat patients with every variety of cardiovascular disease.


Symptoms and Causes of Heart Disease

The causes of cardiovascular disease are varied. While many conditions are acquired due to factors such as smoking, diabetes and obesity, others are present at birth. Atherosclerosis — the buildup of fats and plaques in the blood vessels and coronary arteries — and electrical abnormalities in the heart are common causes.

People with heart disease can experience a wide variety of symptoms, including:

  • Fatigue
  • Irregular heartbeat
  • Pain
  • Shortness of breath
  • Lightheadedness
  • Fluid retention

Some people may have no symptoms at all. Women with heart disease tend to experience symptoms differently than men.

Diagnosing Heart Disease
A variety of cardiovascular tests and studies can be used to evaluate and diagnose heart disease and look at overall cardiovascular health. These may include:

  • Blood tests for heart disease:The blood offers many clues about heart health.
  • Ultrasound imaging: High-frequency sound waves produce dynamic visual images of organs, tissue and blood flow inside the body.
  • Echocardiogram ("echo") tests: Echocardiography is a type of cardiac imaging that uses sound waves to create moving pictures of the heart and its blood vessels at rest and during exercise. Echocardiogram images may be used to diagnose, evaluate and monitor aneurysms. Types of echo tests include:
    • Transthoracic 2-D echocardiography (TTE): This common, non-invasive echo study is performed externally, outside of the chest. TTE can be performed using bubbles (to identify problems with cardiac blood flow) or DEFINITY® contrast (to further clarify imaging).
    • Transesophageal echocardiography (TEE): This minimally invasive study can help cardiologists get a closer look at cardiovascular structures if more information is needed after a TTE study.
  • Computed tomography (CT) and magnetic resonance imaging (MRI), and when appropriate, cardiac CT and MRI: These sophisticated non-invasive technologies provide doctors with highly detailed images of the inside of the body.
  • Diagnostic cerebral angiography: This minimally invasive imaging technology gives doctors a detailed view of the inside of the brain’s blood vessels.
  • Electrocardiogram (EKG or ECG) diagnostics: This non-invasive test records the heart’s electrical activity.
  • Nuclear medicine testing: These outpatient diagnostic exams — typically stress testing and nuclear stress testing for heart patients — are used to evaluate the supply of blood to the heart muscle.
  • Treadmill stress test
  • Cardiac catheterization procedures: Minimally invasive tests in which a long, thin tube (catheter) is placed in an artery in the groin, wrist or arm and used — along with a tiny camera and x-rays — to evaluate how well the heart is functioning. Types of cardiac catheterization procedures include diagnostic left- and right-side cardiac catheterization and Swan-Ganz catheterization.


Treating Heart Disease

There are scores of treatments for heart disease, and they depend upon the type and severity of the condition. Heart disease treatments include:


Make an Appointment

If you or someone you love is experiencing symptoms of cardiovascular disease, please make an appointment today with one of WakeMed’s experienced cardiovascular specialists.