Vascular Health from A to Z


Abdominal aortic aneurysm

Dilation or bulging of the body’s main artery in the abdomen. This bulging can lead to the thinning of the wall of the abdominal aorta and this thinning can cause the artery to rupture. A ruptured aneurysm can be life-threatening and requires urgent surgery.


Pain which is usually felt in the chest, arms or jaw, and which is caused by an insufficient supply of blood to the heart muscle.


A test procedure used to visualize blood vessels. It is performed by threading a catheter through a vein or artery in order to examine a specific area.

Ankle-brachial index (ABI)

A test that uses a small device called a Doppler to measure blood pressure in the leg and arm arteries. If the blood pressure is much lower in the legs compared to the arms, it can signal the presence of a blockage.


Product or substance that helps slow down or prevent the formation of blood clots.


A protein that plays an important role in blood clotting. Antiphospholipid syndrome is an immune system disorder that causes an increased risk of blood clots.


A disorder that affects the normal heart rate or rhythm. There are many different forms of arrhythmia.

Arterial ultrasound

Also called a Doppler ultrasound, this test is used to evaluate blood flow through a vessel to locate blockages and determine the extent of blockage. This test combines ultrasound and Doppler techniques.

Arteriovenous malformation

An abnormal connection between arteries and veins.


A vessel that carries blood away from the heart to other parts of the body such as organs (e.g., stomach) and tissues (e.g., muscles).


A gradual thickening of the artery walls due to the buildup of substances such as fats, cholesterol, calcium and inflammatory cells in and on the artery walls, which can eventually clog the affected arteries and restrict blood flow.

Atrial fibrillation

A form of arrhythmia characterized by an irregular heartbeat. It can lead to the formation of blood clots in the heart, which can break off and travel to the brain, causing a stroke. For this reason, most people with atrial fibrillation must take medication to thin the blood (anticoagulants).


Blood clot

A semi-solid mass of blood that forms in the veins or arteries when blood coagulates. Blood clots are composed of a mix of substances such as platelets and red blood cells.

Blood pressure

A measurement of the pressure exerted by blood on the walls of blood vessels.

Body mass index (BMI)

A measure of the relationship between a person’s height and weight, used to relate body weight to health. It is calculated by dividing a person’s weight in kilograms by the square of their height in metres.


Cardiac CT

A computed tomography (CT) imaging process that produces a scan of the structures and blood vessels of the heart.


Medical specialty concerned with disorders of the heart.

Cardiovascular disease

A disease of the heart or blood vessels that can lead to heart attack, angina, heart failure, high blood pressure or stroke.


A soft, waxy substance that’s found in the lipids (fats) in the blood. Fatty deposits in the arteries contribute to the narrowing of the arteries. Elevated cholesterol levels are a major risk factor for vascular disease, including heart disease.


The process by which blood becomes less liquid and forms clots.

CT (computed tomography) angiography

A medical imaging test that makes it possible to see exactly where blockages are located in the arteries and guides the physician in choosing the appropriate treatment. An iodine-based dye is injected into the veins and a CT scanner is used to obtain a detailed image of the arteries.



A disease that occurs when blood glucose (or blood sugar) levels are too high, and which can cause numerous health problems throughout the body.

Diastolic blood pressure

A measurement of the pressure in the arteries between heart beats, represented by the second number in a blood pressure reading.


A device used to perform a type of ultrasound scan aimed at evaluating blood flow through the blood vessels, among other things, without having to pierce the skin.


Abnormal levels of fats (including cholesterol) in the blood.


A breathing difficulty characterized by shortness of breath or tightness in the chest. The symptoms can be caused by many factors.



A surgical procedure that involves removing fatty deposits from the inside lining of an artery. It is usually used in the carotid arteries in the neck.


Medical specialty that is concerned with the glands that make up the human body’s endocrine system. Endocrinologists specialize in diabetes and thyroid diseases, among other disorders.


Gestational diabetes

A condition in which a pregnant woman without diabetes develops a high blood sugar level during pregnancy, usually between 24 and 28 weeks. The blood sugar level usually returns to normal after delivery.


Medical specialty that treats pathologies of the female reproductive system.


Heart failure

More commonly known as heart failure, occurs when the heart muscle is too weak to pump sufficient blood to supply oxygen to tissues throughout the body.


The branch of medicine concerned with diseases related to blood.


An anticoagulant (blood thinner) that prevents the formation of blood clots and the clumping of platelets that leads to blood clots. It is used in the preventive treatment of deep vein thrombosis and pulmonary embolism.

High-density lipoprotein (HDL)

Also called “good” cholesterol, these lipoproteins absorb cholesterol in the arteries and carry it back to the liver, which then flushes it from the body. As such, a high level of HDL in the blood may protect against heart attacks and strokes.

Hypercoagulable state

A condition in which the blood has an abnormally increased tendency to clot and block blood vessels.


Abnormally high blood glucose levels.

Hypertension (high blood pressure)

Blood pressure that is too high considering the individuals’ age and other cardiovascular risk factors.


A fall in blood sugar to levels that are below normal, which can result in a state of shock.



A hormone secreted by the pancreas, whose main function is to help the body turn blood sugar (glucose) into the energy essential to life.

Intermittent claudication

Pain or fatigue in a group of muscles that occurs during physical activity and stops rapidly, within a few minutes at most, when one stops walking.

Interventional angioradiology

Medical specialty that uses imaging to perform diagnostic and therapeutic procedures in blood vessels.



Any organic compound composed of lipids, including fatty acids and cholesterol. Lipoproteins transport cholesterol through the bloodstream to all parts of the body.

Low-density lipoprotein (LDL)

Often referred to as “bad” cholesterol, these lipoproteins are the main carrier of cholesterol in the blood. Too much LDL in the blood can lead to the formation of platelets, which then block the arteries and ultimately cause a heart attack or stroke.

Low-molecular-weight heparin

This type of heparin plays the same role as unfractionated heparin and is an alternative, longer-acting solution that can be administered subcutaneously in one or two doses and requires fewer blood tests.


MRI (magnetic resonance imaging) angiography

A medical imaging test that makes it possible to see exactly where blockages are located in the arteries and guides the physician in choosing the appropriate treatment. A gadolinium-based dye is injected into the veins and a magnetic resonance imaging scanner (which creates images using magnetic fields instead of radiation, as with conventional scanners) is used to view the arteries.

Myocardial infarction

Also commonly known as a heart attack, occurs when there is damage or death of the heart muscle due to insufficient blood supply. A blood clot forms in the coronary arteries, reducing the flow of blood to the heart, particularly where the arteries have narrowed as a result of the accumulation of cholesterol.

Myocardial scintigraphy

A type of nuclear scanning test that uses a radioactive tracer to assess blockages in the arteries of the heart.



Medical specialty concerned with the health of the kidneys.


Medical specialty concerned with disorders affecting the neurological system, namely the brain, spinal cord and peripheral nerves.


Surgical specialty responsible for procedures involving the neurological system, mainly the brain and the spinal column.



A medical condition defined by an excessive amount of body fat, represented by a body mass index (BMI) greater than 30 kg/m2.

Obstetric medicine

Medical specialty concerned with the promotion of maternal health and fetal well-being through the prevention, diagnosis and treatment of pregnancy-related disorders.


Surgical specialty dedicated to ensuring the care and treatment during pregnancy and childbirth.


Medical specialty that deals with the prevention, diagnosis and treatment of cancer.

Oral hypoglycemics medications

Drugs that can be prescribed to patients suffering from diabetes and that act by lowering blood sugar levels.


Surgical specialty that focuses on interventions involving the musculoskeletal system, which is made up of bones, muscles, joints, ligaments and tendons.

Orthostatic hypotension

A fall in blood pressure that occurs when someone stands up quickly and that can cause dizziness, blurred vision or even loss of consciousness.


Peripheral artery disease

A disease affecting the blood vessels in the legs and that can lead to pain when walking or exercising.


Formation of a blood clot in one or more veins, usually in the legs.

Platelet aggregation inhibition

Action of a drug that prevents platelets from clumping together to form a blood clot.

Platelet aggregation inhibitor

A medication that prevents blood clots from forming by preventing platelets from sticking together and forming clumps.


A component of blood that plays an important role in the normal clotting of blood.


Medical specialty concerned with diseases affecting the lungs.

Primary prevention

Actions aimed at preventing health problems before they occur.

Pulmonary embolism

A serious condition caused by the sudden blockage of a blood vessel in the lungs.



Also known as radiation therapy, a type of treatment used with certain cancers that consists in aiming x-rays at a specific part of the body to destroy cancer cells.


Medical specialty that treats inflammatory diseases (e.g., arthritis) and autoimmune diseases.


Saphenous vein

A superficial vein close to the surface of the skin in the leg and thigh that acts as a pathway for blood flowing back to the heart. The saphenous vein runs from the foot to the groin.

Saturated fats

Fat or lipids that are usually solid at room temperature and tend to raise blood cholesterol levels. They are found in foods of animal and plant origin.

Secondary prevention

Actions aimed at preventing health problems from recurring or causing further damage following an occurrence.


A class of drugs used to help lower cholesterol levels in the blood.


Partial narrowing of an artery, resulting in restricted blood circulation.


A wire mesh tube that is inserted in order to keep a blood vessel open. Arteries can become blocked by, among other things, cholesterol plaques or a tear in the wall of an artery (dissection).


Disruption of the blood supply in the brain that leads to the sudden death of brain cells due to lack of oxygen. It may be caused by a blood clot that blocks an artery (ischemic stroke) or a blood vessel that ruptures and leaks (hemorrhagic stroke). Warning signs depend on the area of the brain affected, but include face drooping, arm weakness and speech difficulties.

Systolic blood pressure

A measurement of the maximum pressure placed on the walls of arteries when the heart contracts, represented by the first number in a blood pressure reading.


Thoracic aorta

The first segment of the body’s main artery, the aorta, that carries oxygen-rich blood from the heart to the rest of the body.

Thoracic outlet syndrome

A condition characterized by compression in the area of the neck of nerves and blood vessels that go to the arm. This can cause pain in the arm during certain movements.


A coronary reperfusion therapy used to dissolve blood clots in vessels in order to restore vascular permeability more quickly and completely.


Obstruction of one or more veins by a blood clot, usually in the legs.


Formation of a blood clot, that completely obstructs an artery, preventing the flow of blood. Blood clots are made from of fatty deposits (plaque) and abnormal cells, as in stenosis.

Transient ischemic attack (TIA)

A brief interruption in the supply of blood to the brain, causing a temporary loss of brain function. It comes on suddenly, but the symptoms are short-lived, ranging from several minutes to several hours.



A non-invasive imaging test that uses high-frequency sound waves to provide images of the inside of the body, without having to pierce the skin.

Unsaturated fats

Fats or lipids that are generally liquid at room temperature and for which there are two broad categories: monounsaturated fats and polyunsaturated fats. Polyunsaturated fats help the body get rid of newly formed cholesterol, thereby reducing the accumulation of cholesterol in the blood.


V/Q scan

A type of nuclear scanning test that uses a radioactive tracer to assess blockages in the arteries of the lung.

Vascular bypass

Surgical procedure used to treat a blocked artery. An alternative pathway is created that allows blood to continue to flow by installing a graft that creates a detour around the section of the artery that is blocked.

Vascular dementia

A cognitive disorder caused by damage to the vessels that supply blood to the brain, usually as a result of atherosclerosis or high blood pressure.

Vascular disease

Blood vessel disorders such as high blood pressure, cerebral ischemia, heart attack, angina and peripheral artery disease.

Vascular dissection

A tear in a layer of the wall of a blood vessel. Since blood vessels have more than one layer, dissection does not always lead to rupture. The tear can restrict blood flow and have serious consequences (stroke, myocardial infarction, death).

Vascular medicine

Medical specialty concerned with the health of blood vessels.

Vascular surgery

Surgical subspecialty that performs procedures related to diseases of the vascular system.