Something that happens suddenly or for a short time. Opposite of chronic.
A version of a gene. For every gene, you inherit two alleles from your parents—one from your mother, one from your father. You may get the same allele from both parents, or you may get different alleles from each parent. Sometimes, different alleles are associated with different traits, such as hair color, or with differences in the risk of certain diseases.
A person's family line of descent. There are many ways to trace ancestry. Geneaologists try to trace family lines of descent, often using birth certificates, Census records, or other historical sources. It is also now possible to learn something about a person's ancestry using genetics. By comparing one person's genetic makeup to other people around the world, scientists can estimate how much of a person's ancestry can be traced back to different parts of the world (for example, Africa, Asia, Europe). These estimates are still uncertain, but they can contain useful information.
Angina Pectoris (Angina)
Chest pain caused by blocked arteries in the heart.
Medications that lower blood pressure. There are different types of blood pressure-lowering drugs that work in different ways. High blood pressure medicine is usually prescribed to be taken as a lifelong way to control high blood pressure.
Narrowing of blood vessels caused by the build-up of cholesterol inside the vessels.
The main kind of sugar found in the blood. Also referred to as blood sugar. If blood glucose is high, it could be a sign of diabetes. Blood glucose level is usually reported in milligrams per deciliter, or mg/dL.
For more information, visit the American Diabetes Association's website on Diabetes Basics
The amount of pressure that circulating blood exerts on the wall of blood vessels. Blood pressure is usually measured by two numbers, such as 120/80 (read "120 over 80"). The top number is systolic blood pressure. The bottom number is diastolic blood pressure.
The following table shows normal blood pressure for adults. It also shows the levels of blood pressure that put you at higher risk for health problems. High blood pressure increases the risk of heart disease, stroke, kidney failure, and other diseases.
||Less than 120
Less than 80
|High blood pressure
| Stage 1
| Stage 2
||160 or higher
|| 100 or higher
For more information, see the American Heart Association's page on managing your blood pressure.
Tubes that move blood around the body. There are two types of blood vessels. Arteries carry blood from the heart to the rest of the body. Veins carry blood from the rest of the body back to the heart.
Body Mass Index (BMI)
A measure used to assess a body weight relative to a person's height. BMI is often used to determine if a person is underweight, normal weight, overweight, or obese. Visit the BMI calculator
to determine your own BMI and learn more about why it matters.
Aspects of our surroundings that are made or modified by human activity. Public health researchers generally use the concept of built environment to refer to human-made factors that impact health, such as housing quality, walkability of cities, park space, transportation infrastructure, air pollution, and location of food stores and other retail outlets.
A protein in the blood that rises when there is inflammation occurring in the body. Also referred to as CRP. Many things can increase CRP, such as infection, arthritis, and heart disease.
Having to do with the heart.
The sudden, abrupt loss of heart function. When the heart stops working properly (doesn't contract as well as it should), blood stops circulating around the body.
Having to do with the heart and blood vessels. "Cardio" refers to the heart, and "vascular" refers to vessels. The heart and vessels move blood around your body. This circulatory system is referred to as the cardiovascular system.
Having to do with the brain and its major blood vessels.
Cerebrovascular Accident (CVA)
The medical term for a stroke. A stroke occurs when blood flow to the brain is interrupted and brain cells die or are damaged.
A type of fat made in the liver. It is also found in some foods. The body uses cholesterol to build cell walls and make hormones. There are several kinds of cholesterol. The most important ones are low-density lipoprotein (LDL or “bad”) and high-density lipoprotein (HDL or “good”).
Something that lasts a long time. Opposite of acute.
Community-based participatory research (CBPR)
An approach to doing research that requires equitable partnerships between researchers and the communities in which research takes place. CBPR recognizes that researchers and community members have complementary expertise and can learn from one another by working together. CBPR strives to include community members in all phases of the research process, from developing research questions to collecting data and disseminating results.
For more about how we approach CBPR, see HEAT's vision, mission, and principles.
A complex disease is caused by the interaction of many genes and many environmental factors. Complex diseases are also called multifactorial because they involve many factors. Examples of complex diseases include cancer, diabetes, and heart disease.
Coronary Artery Disease
A condition caused by clogged arteries (blood vessels) in the heart. Severe cases can lead to a heart attack.
Coronary Heart Disease
Damage to the heart muscle caused by clogged arteries leading to the heart. Reduced blood flow to the heart is likely to cause chest pain (angina pectoris) or a heart attack.
Diabetes (Diabetes Mellitus)
A condition involving high blood sugar. Blood sugar, or glucose, gets too high when the body cannot use glucose normally for energy. This occurs when the pancreas does not make insulin, or does not make enough insulin.
For more information, visit the American Diabetes Association's website on Diabetes Basics
Diastolic Blood Pressure
The minimum pressure exerted on blood vessel walls. DBP occurs when the heart rests. It is the bottom number in a blood pressure reading. Normal diastolic BP should be less than 80.
Unequal treatment of groups or individuals who share a characteristic in common (e.g., race, gender, sexual orientation, disability status). Discrimination can involve the action of individuals as well as policies of organizations, employers, or governments. There is increasing evidence that the experience of discrimination harms health.
DNA is our genetic material. It is a molecule that carries instructions for building proteins. All living things have DNA. We inherit half our DNA from our mother and half from our father.
Family Health History
Medical conditions of family members. It is helpful for doctors to collect this information to see if there are certain diseases that may run in families. To learn more about family health history, including tools to discover and share your own, visit the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention
An area of a city where it is hard to get healthy, affordable food. Food deserts are often defined as neighborhoods where people do not have access to affordable fruits and vegetables, whole grains, and other foods that make up a healthy diet.
To find food deserts anywhere in the United States, visit the USDA's Food Desert locator.
Aspects of our surroundings that influence food choices and dietary quality. The food environment includes factors such as the location and quality of grocery stores, number and location of fast food chains or other restaurants, food prices, and availability of transportation to food outlets.
To find information about the food environment where you live, visit the USDA's Food Environment Atlas.
A blood test that measures the average blood sugar over several months.
High Blood Pressure (Hypertension)
A condition in which the force of blood on the walls of blood vessels is too high. Hypertension, or high blood pressure, refers to blood pressure above 140/90. It can strain the heart, damage blood vessels, and increase the risk of heart attack, stroke, and kidney problems.
Passed from parents to children. In medicine, when people say "inherited," they usually mean that a trait is determined by genes. Most traits are not determined by genes alone, but rather involve interactions between genes and environmental factors.
Reduced blood flow to an organ, usually caused by clogged arteries.
Ischemic Heart Disease
Decreased blood flow to the heart, causing damage to the heart muscle so that it doesn't pump blood as well as it should.
Fats in the blood, including cholesterol and triglycerides. Lipids are important for energy storage and cell structure, but too much can lead to blocked arteries. Lipids can be found in foods containing fat.
A group of medical conditions that tend to occur together and increase the risk of heart disease and diabetes. These conditions include high blood pressure, high triglycerides, high blood sugar, and obesity (especially around the abdomen).
A medical condition or disease. Scientists measure morbidity rates to know how many people in a population have a particular disease.
In medicine, mortality refers to death. Scientists measure mortality rates to know how many people in a population die from a particular disease.
Medical term for a heart attack. A heart attack occurs when the flow of blood to the heart is reduced by clogged blood vessels. The reduced blood flow means that the heart doesn't get enough oxygen, and the heart muscle can be damaged or die.
Excess body fat that is considered unhealthy. Obesity is usually defined as body mass index (BMI) greater than 30.
A tendency or inclination towards something in advance.
People sometimes think of racism as a matter of how we treat one another as individuals. That's part of it, but there's more. Racism needs to be understood as a system embedded in the structure of society. We distinguish three levels of racism, following a model proposed by Dr. Camara Phyllis Jones:
Levels of racism
- Institutionalized racism. Unequal access to the goods, services, and opportunities of society by race. Institutionalized racism is structural, having been encoded in customs, practices, and laws. It persists even after legal support for racism is removed, often because of inaction in the face of need. We can see institutionalized racism in material conditions (access to quality education, housing, neighborhood conditions, health care) and in access to power (information, resources, political influence).
- Personally mediated racism. Also known as interpersonal racism. It includes prejudice and discrimination. Racial prejudice refers to unequal assumptions about the abilities and motives of others based on the perception of their race. Racial discrimination refers to the unequal treatment of others based on the perception of their race. Prejudice and discrimination are what most people think of when they hear the word "racism." We see it in the form of lack of respect (people not taking you seriously, receiving poorer service), suspicion (being followed in stores, others avoiding you), devaluation (people being surprised at your abilities), and dehumanization (police abuse, hate crimes).
- Internalized racism. Acceptance of negative messages about your own race. It involves not believing in others who belong to the same race, in doubting your own intrinsic worth because of your race, or accepting limits to your full humanity, including how you can express yourself or what your ambitions can be. We can see internalized racism in actions that favor "whiteness" (skin bleaching, use of hair straighteners, colorism), self-devaluation (use of racial slurs as nicknames, rejection of ancestral culture), and resignation and hopelessness (dropping out of school, not voting, engaging in unhealthy behaviors).
For more information, read Dr. Jones's gardener's tale about the three levels of racism.
Social Determinants of Health
Systolic Blood Pressure
The maximum pressure exerted on blood vessel walls. SBP occurs when the heart pumps blood out into the arteries. It is the top number in a blood pressure reading. Normal systolic BP should be less than 120.
The most common form in which fat is stored in the body. They transport dietary fats and are a source of energy. Triglycerides are found in animals and vegetable oil. High levels of triglycerides can increase the risk of heart disease and stroke.
Type 1 Diabetes
A chronic disease that is usually diagnosed in children and young adults. The body does not produce any insulin in type I diabetes mellitus. Our bodies need insulin to convert the sugar we eat into energy. Without insulin, blood sugar rises.
Type 2 Diabetes
A chronic disease that is usually diagnosed in adults. The body either does not produce enough insulin or can't use the insulin produced by the body effectively, causing blood sugar to rise. Our bodies need insulin to convert the sugar we eat into energy. Without insulin, blood sugar rises. Type 2 diabetes mellitus is the most common type of diabetes.
Having to do with blood vessels.