Heart Health Terms You Need To Know

Wood table with power meal, weights, clock and notepad with words Heart Healthy written on it
Written by Risa Schulman
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3 minutes

Regularly talking to your doctor about your heart health helps you better identify potential health issues, measure the effect your lifestyle has on your overall well-being, and stay on top of any changes in your heart’s health. Heart health is complex, and the medical terms used to describe the heart, veins, and arteries (and how they function) can be difficult to understand. To help you get more out of your conversation with your doctor about heart health, we’ve identified 4 common heart health terms you should be familiar with.

What is Hyperlipidemia?

While you may not recognize it by its scientific name, hyperlipidemia refers to a condition most people are familiar with: high cholesterol. While our bodies naturally produce cholesterol, cholesterol can also be found in foods like cheese, egg yolks, fried foods, processed foods, and red meat.1

Why It Matters:

Hyperlipidemia can be genetic, influenced by your diet, or a combination of both. Since hyperlipidemia isn’t something you can feel, it’s important to keep an eye on your cholesterol levels. Hyperlipidemia can increase your risk of heart disease, stroke, or heart attack.2

Related: Eat Up To Cut Down On Cholesterol

What is Atherosclerosis?

This term refers to the hardening and narrowing of your arteries. This happens when plaque (usually made up of fats, cholesterol, and other substances) builds up on your artery walls. This can restrict the blood flow from your heart to your organs and tissues.3

Why It Matters:

Your tissues and organs depend on the blood vessels that supply them with oxygen and nutrients, which can be affected by atherosclerosis. You may not always feel symptoms of early and mild atherosclerosis, which makes it even more important to cultivate a heart-healthy lifestyle.3

What is Ejection Fraction?

Ejection fraction (EF) measures the percentage of blood leaving your heart each time it contracts. Understanding whether your EF is normal or low can be helpful in assessing your heart’s health and identifying potential concerns-- although it is not a stand-alone diagnostic.4

Why It Matters:

When your heart contracts, it sends nutrient- and oxygen-rich blood to other organs and tissues in your body. Measuring your EF can help your medical team understand how effective your heart is at pushing out blood and, along with other screenings, track your risk for developing other heart issues.5

What is Hypertension?

Hypertension, or high blood pressure, is a relatively common condition. Blood pressure is measured by evaluating your ejection fraction (how much blood your heart pumps), the force of your blood pushing against the walls of your arteries, and amount of resistance to blood flow in your arteries.6

Why It Matters:

Having high blood pressure can put more pressure on your artery walls and can lead to health complications. Regularly checking your blood pressure and identifying hypertension can help you and your doctor work together to make heart-healthy lifestyle changes to reduce your blood pressure.7

Regularly visiting a doctor gives you more insight into your health habits and goals, but it can be hard to know where to begin. Understanding medical terminology can make these conversations easier and less stressful.

Want some extra support? Read our tips for talking to your doctor about heart health.

It’s important to take charge of your health and regularly visit a doctor to help you identify healthy goals and and how you can reach them.

Written by:

Risa Schulman


Risa Schulman, Ph.D. has been helping companies and people build wellness for 25 years.

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