Afib-Stroke Glossary

Aneurysm is an abnormal widening or ballooning of a portion of an artery due to weakness in the wall of the blood vessel.

Anticoagulant is a substance that prevents clotting of blood.

Aspirin is a drug used to make blood platelets less “sticky” and help prevent the formation of unwanted blood clots.

Atherosclerosis is the hardening and narrowing of arteries due to plaque buildup around the artery wall.

Arrhythmia is a problem with the rate or rhythm of the heartbeat. During an arrhythmia, the heart can beat too fast (known as tachycardia), too slow (bradycardia), or with an irregular rhythm. During an arrhythmia, the heart may not be able to pump enough blood through the body.

Atrial fibrillation (also called auricular fibrillationAF or Afib) is a type of irregular heartbeat. It is caused whe
n the two upper chambers of the heart (atria) beat rapidly and unpredictably, producing an irregular heartbeat. With Afib, cells in the atria send extra electrical signals. These extra signals make the atria beat very fast and unevenly.

Atrial flutter results from a single “short circuit” in the right atrium. This short circuit causes the atria to beat at about 300 beats per minute while the lower chambers of the heart (the ventricles) beat at a slower rate (often 75 to 150 beats per minute). The electrical signals travel around and around inside the atria. These circling signals make the atria beat too fast. The atria may beat fast but still evenly. This condition most commonly occurs in elderly patients and patients with other types of heart disease.

Atrial tachycardia is a faster than normal heart rate. A healthy adult heart normally beats 60 to 100 times a minute when a person is at rest. If you have tachycardia, the rate in the upper and/or lower chambers of the heart is increased significantly.

Carotid artery dissection is a separation of the layers of the artery wall supplying oxygen-bearing blood to the head and brain. It is the most common cause of stroke in young adults.

Controllable risk factors are risk factors that can be controlled in order to reduce the chance of having a stroke.

Cryptogenic stroke is a stroke with no apparent cause.

CT (computed tomography) brain scan is a noninvasive diagnostic imaging procedure that uses a combination of X-rays and computer technology to produce horizontal images (often called slices) of the brain. CT scans are more detailed than standard X-rays.

Embolic stroke occurs when a blood clot forms somewhere in the body (usually the heart) and travels through the bloodstream to your brain. Once in your brain, the clot eventually travels to a blood vessel small enough to block its passage. The clot lodges there, blocking the blood vessel and causing a stroke. The medical word for this type of blood clot is embolus.

Endarterectomy is an operation to remove blockage in the lining of an artery constricted by the buildup of soft or hardening deposits. It is carried out by separating the plaque from the arterial wall.

FAST is an acronym used to help individuals remember the most common stroke symptoms:

F = Face; the faces droops on one side

A = Arms; one arms drifts downward when raised

S = Speech; the speech is slurred or garbled

T = Time; call 9-1-1 immediately when any of these symptoms occur

Heart palpitations are feelings that your heart is skipping a beat, fluttering or beating too hard or too fast. You may have these feelings in your chest, throat or neck. They can occur during activity or even when you’re sitting still or lying down.

Hypertension means high blood pressure.

Intracranial means within the skull.

Ischemic stroke occurs when an artery in the brain is blocked.

Lacunar infarction (or small vessel disease) occurs when blood flow is blocked to a very small arterial vessel.

Medication adherence refers to whether patients take their medications as prescribed, as well as whether they continue to take the prescribed medication.

Migraine is a type of severe headache that can cause stroke-like symptoms.

Mini-stroke is a term used to describe a TIA.

MRI (magnetic resonance imaging) brain scan is a test that uses a magnetic field and pulses of radio wave energy to take pictures of the brain and surrounding nerve tissues. In many cases, MRI gives information that cannot be seen on an X-ray, ultrasound or CT scan.

Neuroplasticity is the ability the brain has to “re-wire” or reorganize itself by forming new neural connections throughout life. Neuroplasticity allows the neurons (nerve cells) in the brain to compensate for injury.

PFO (patent foramen ovale) is a small “hole” in the heart which typically closes at birth. It often has no symptoms and is a risk factor for stroke.

Risk factors are certain aspects of a person’s lifestyle, genetics and medical conditions that can cause an increase in the risk of suffering a stroke.

Stroke occurs when a blood clot blocks an artery or a blood vessel breaks, interrupting blood flow to an area of the brain.

Thrombolytic drugs can re-establish blood flow to the brain by dissolving clots that are blocking the flow. These drugs are an early treatment for ischemic stroke. They break up blood clots, allowing blood to flow through the blood vessel again.

Thrombotic stroke occurs when blood flow is impaired because of a blockage to one or more of the arteries supplying blood to the brain.

TIA (transient ischemic attack), sometimes called a mini-stroke, is an event during which stroke symptoms last less than 24 hours before disappearing, and generally no permanent brain damage occurs.

tPA (tissue plasminogen activator) is an enzyme found naturally in the body that activates plasminogen into another enzyme to dissolve a blood clot.

Uncontrollable risk factors are risk factors that cannot be controlled, such as age, gender or genetic background.

Warfarin is an anticoagulant drug used to “thin” the blood and reduce the risk of blood clots forming. It is commonly prescribed as treatment for patients who have had a stroke caused by an irregular heartbeat.