Here’s a helpful glossary of commonly used medical terms related to obesity. You can also learn more about obesity here.
A1C: see hemoglobin A1C.
ACE inhibitor: ACE stands for angiotensin converting enzyme, which can cause an increase in blood pressure. ACE inhibitors are used to lower blood pressure by blocking the body’s production of angiotensin converting
Adult Onset Diabetes: also known as type 2 diabetes: This refers to insulin resistance that
develops in most commonly in adults. It is
largely caused by diet.
Aneurysm: An abnormal balloon-like bulge in an artery that can burst. High blood pressure is thought to be a contributing factor but aneurysms can also be congenital.
Aldosterone: A steroid hormone secreted by the adrenal gland, which is the principal regulator of the salt and water balance in the body.
Angina pectoris: A pain spasm in the chest usually caused by the inability of diseased coronary arteries to deliver sufficient oxygen to the heart.
Angina stable: Also known as ‘angina of effort’. It’s caused when the demands of the heart increase due to exercise or emotional trauma and the oxygen supply is unable to keep up. It is usually easily controlled by rest or medication.
Angina unstable: The most serious form of angina, it can indicate an imminent heart attack. Its onset is unpredictable and usually occurs when a person is at rest.
Angina variant: Chest pain that occurs at rest for no apparent reason — unlike typical angina
— which usually follows physical exertion. Attacks are painful and occur most often at night.
Angiotensin: An enzyme in the blood that causes blood vessels to narrow. This in turn raises blood pressure.
Angiotensin converting enzyme inhibitors, or ACE inhibitors: A class of medication that
blocks the activity of angiotensin converting enzyme.
Anticoagulant: A drug that reduces or stops the blood’s ability to form clots or to coagulate.
Antidiuretic hormone: A chemical produced in the brain that causes the kidneys to release less water, decreasing the amount of urine produced.
Antiplatelet agent: Medications, such as aspirin, that prevent the platelets in the blood from coming together to form blood clots.
Antipsychotics: A class of medications used to treat psychosis. There are two types – atypical and typical: atypicals are the new generation of antipsychotics. An example of an atypical antipsychotic would be quetiapine (Seroquel), and haloperidol is a typical antipsychotic. Both types of antipsychotics can cause weight gain in some people.
Arrhythmia: Any change from the normal rhythm of the heartbeat.
Atherosclerosis: This fairly common health condition occurs when fatty substances form plaques on the inner lining of arterial walls. This can eventually block the arteries, causing heart attack and/or stroke.
Autoimmune Disease: A process by which the body’s immune system attacks and destroys its own tissue within the body.
Bariatric surgery: Bariatrics refers to a branch of medicine specializing in the treatment of obesity. Bariatric surgery refers to surgical procedures done in people who are severe or morbidly obese, to help promote weight loss.
Beta cells: The cells in the pancreas that produce insulin. Destruction or dysfunction of beta cells causes Type 1 diabetes.
Bladder: The organ that collects urine before excretion from the body.
Blood pressure: The pressure of blood in the arteries.
Blood sugar level: The amount of sugar in the blood.
Body mass index (BMI): A standardized way to define overweight, obesity, and morbid obesity. BMI is calculated using an individual’s height and weight (see page o3). A BMI of 25 or more is considered overweight; 30 or more, obese; and 40 or more, morbidly obese.
Carbohydrate: A nutrient found in vegetables, starches and dairy products. Carbohydrates can raise blood sugar levels.
Cholesterol: A fat-like substance produced by the liver and found in the blood.
Complications: Harmful ailments or conditions — such as stroke, kidney failure and heart disease — that can be caused by diabetes. Corns and Calluses: Hardened areas of the skin
caused by friction or pressure. Usually found on the feet.
Coronary insufficiency: Insufficient blood flow
through one or more coronary arteries.
Corticosteroid: corticosteroid hormones are produced naturally in the body by the adrenal
glands. The production of corticosteroids is regulated by another hormone called corticotrophin, produced by the pituitary gland. Corticosteroid medicines are very similar to
corticosteroid hormones and are primarily used to treat inflammation. They can cause weight
gain in some people.
Cushing’s syndrome: Also known as “hypercortisolism,” it is a hormonal disorder caused
by prolonged exposure of the body’s tissues to high levels of the hormone cortisol. Cushing’s
syndrome is relatively rare, and most commonly affects adults aged 20 to 50.
Diastole: The period when the heart is in a state of relaxation and dilatation.
Diabetes: A condition in which the body cannot produce insulin or cannot properly use the insulin it makes to provide energy to the body. There are two types of diabetes: Type 1, or insulin dependent diabetes, and Type 2, or non-insulin-dependent diabetes.
Diabetic eye disease: Also known as diabetic retinopathy, this is a disease of the retina, the
back part of the eye, caused by diabetes.
Diabetic ketoacidosis: Results from a combination of high blood sugar levels and an accumulation of acids and ketones in the blood.
Diabetic kidney disease: Damage to the kidneys caused by diabetes.
Diabetic nerve damage: Damage to the nerves caused by diabetes.
Dialysis: An essential procedure used to remove waste from the blood when the kidneys can no longer function.
Dietitian: A diet professional who helps design meal plans for people with chronic illness such
Doppler imaging: The use of sound waves to examine blood flow velocity within the arteries
Echocardiography: A procedure using ultrasonic waves directed over the chest wall to provide a visual record of where the heart is located in the chest and the motion of the heart walls and valves.
Edema: Swelling in the small spaces that surround the body tissues and organs. Edema
can occur anywhere in the body.
EKG: Also known as an electrocardiogram, this test is used to measure the heart’s electrical
Fasting plasma glucose test: Used to check your blood-sugar levels, it is carried out at least
eight hours after your last ingestion of food.
Food exchanges: A system used to help people eat healthily by trading foods within one
food group. For example, you could swap a protein – chicken for fish, or a certain amount
of cooked vegetables for a different amount of raw vegetables.
Gestational diabetes: A type of diabetes that sometimes develops during pregnancy. It’s
caused by the hormones of pregnancy or a shortage of insulin and usually goes away after
the baby is born.
Gingivitis: A soreness and swelling of the gums that, if left untreated, can lead to more serious problems.
Glucagon: A hormone produced by the pancreas that increases blood sugar levels.
Glucose: A form of sugar in the blood that the body uses for energy.
Heart attack: A cardiac event that occurs when the supply of blood and oxygen to the heart
muscle is blocked. The medical term is myocardial infarction.
HDL (high density lipoprotein): Also referred to as ‘good’ cholesterol, HDL protects against heart disease. A low level of HDL cholesterol may increase the risk of heart disease and stroke.
Hemoglobin A1c: Also known as glycosylated (or glycated) hemoglobin (hemoglobin A1c,
Hb1c, HbA1c or HgA1c). A form of hemoglobin used mainly to determine plasma glucose concentrations over time.
Hemoglobin A1c test: A blood test that measures glucose levels during the previous three months. People with diabetes are encouraged to have the test at least once a year.
High blood pressure: Also known as hypertension, this is a chronic condition that makes the
heart work too hard and can increase the risk of heart attack and stroke. A pressure of 140 (systolic) and/or 90 (diastolic) is considered high.
Hormone: A chemical substance produced in the body that is vital in the regulation of digestion, metabolism, growth, reproduction and mood control.
Hyperglycemia: High blood-glucose levels.
Hypoglycemia: Low blood-glucose levels.
Hypoglycemic agents: Drugs that help diabetics manage their blood glucose level.
Hypertension: See high blood pressure.
Impotence: The inability to achieve or maintain a penile erection.
Insulin: A hormone, produced in the pancreas, which allows sugar to be used as energy by the body.
Insulin dependent diabetes: Also known as Type 1 diabetes, this occurs when the pancreas
no longer produces insulin. While it is usually diagnosed in children, teenagers and young
adults, it can occur in people of all ages.
Insulin Pump: A small device that mimics the body’s production of insulin.
Insulin Resistance: A condition that occurs when the body is producing enough insulin but cannot convert it into energy. Insulin resistance is a major factor in Type 2 diabetes.
Ischemia: A condition in which there is inadequate flow of blood to any part of the body. Myocardial ischemia is inadequate blood flow to the heart.
Ketones: A substance produced when the body doesn’t have enough insulin and uses fat instead of sugar for energy.
Ketoacidosis: A serious condition caused when the body breaks down fat instead of sugar for energy. Ketoacidosis can be a side effect of diabetes.
Kidneys: Twin vital organs in the body that work to purify the blood of all toxins and waste.
Laparascopic: Adjustable gastric banding.
Left ventricular hypertrophy: A thickening of the left ventricle, which is the heart muscle’s main pumping chamber. Its presence indicates an underlying health problem.
Low blood glucose: Occurs when blood sugar levels are too low in the body. It can cause dizziness or anxiety.
LDL (low density lipoprotein): Also known as ‘bad’ cholesterol. A high level of LDL cholesterol can increase the risk of heart disease and stroke.
Magnetic resonance imaging: A non-invasive procedure using a machine that makes images
of internal body functions.
mg/dL: milligrams per deciliter.
Myocardial perfusion imaging: A test that uses a very low dose of a radioactive agent to
evaluate the heart’s blood flow and function. It is usually performed while you exercise.
Nitric oxide: A compound that plays a number of important roles in the body, including controlling blood flow to the tissues.
Microalbumin: A protein found in the blood and urine. It can be an indicator of kidney disease.
Nephropathy: Disease or abnormal functioning of the kidneys.
Neuropathy: Injury to the nerves that often causes a loss of sensation. It’s a common side
effect of diabetes.
Non-insulin dependant diabetes: Also called Type 2 diabetes. In this form of the disease, the pancreas produces insulin but the body can’t use it effectively, causing glucose to build up in the body. This is the most common form of diabetes and makes up 90 to 95 percent of all cases.
Pancreas: The organ that produces insulin.
Percutaneous transluminal balloon angioplasty (PTBA): A procedure that involves inserting a small balloon on the end of a catheter into an artery. It is done to widen a blocked artery and improve blood flow – thereby reducing the risk for heart attack and stroke.
Perfusion: Bathing an organ, tissue, or blood vessels with a fluid.
Platelet: A small, disc-shaped cell present in large numbers in blood. It plays a key role in
blood coagulation or clotting and in the repair of damage such as small breaks in blood vessel
Polycystic ovary syndrome: This is a manageable but as yet incurable syndrome affecting women of childbearing age, and the most common type of disease of the endocrine gland in this population. It is also called Stein-Leventhal Syndrome, hyperandrogenic chronic anovulation, functional ovarian hyperandrogenism, and Polycystic Ovary Disease.
Primary or idiopathic pulmonary hypertension: A rare lung disorder in which the blood pressure in the pulmonary artery rises above normal levels for no apparent reason.
Pulmonary hypertension: High blood pressure in the arteries leading to the lungs.
Periodontitis: Advanced gum disease.
Pre-eclampsia: High blood pressure during pregnancy.
Pumice stone: A rough-textured tool used to remove calluses from the foot.
Restrictive cardiomyopathy: A condition in which the walls of the lower chambers of the heart are abnormally rigid and lack the flexibility to expand as the ventricles fill with blood.
Retinopathy: Disease of the retina (the back part of the eye). A condition sometimes caused by diabetes.
Self-monitoring blood glucose: A technique used by diabetics to check their blood sugar levels. A drop of blood is put on a special strip and a ‘reading’ is gauged.
Stroke: Damage to the brain caused when blood flow to the brain is interrupted.
Thyroid function: The thyroid is an endocrine gland located in the lower front of your neck.
Its function is to produce thyroid hormone, which is essential to every cell and tissue in
the body. Thyroid hormone helps regulate numerous functions in the body including
growth, and metabolism.
TCAs or tricyclic antidepressants: An older class of antidepressant drugs; eg. imipramine,
amitriptyline, desipramine, and nortriptyline
Triglycerides: A type of fat made by your body. High levels of triglycerides are not healthy and are typically seen in people with diabetes and heart disease. They result from being overweight or obese, excess alcohol consumption, smoking and a diet high in carbohydrates.
Type 1 diabetes or insulin-dependent diabetes: This occurs when the pancreas no longer produces insulin. Usually diagnosed in children, teenagers or young adults: formerly known as ‘juvenile diabetes’.
Type 2 diabetes or non-insulin-dependent diabetes: In this form of the disease, the pancreas produces insulin but the body can’t use it effectively, causing glucose to build up in the body. This is the most common form of diabetes, and makes up 90 to 95 percent of all cases.
Ulcer: A hole or break in the skin. Urea: A waste substance cleared from the blood into the urine by the kidneys.
Urine Testing: Tests used to check signs of diabetic injury to the kidneys.
Vasoconstriction: Narrowing of blood vessels.
Vasodilation: Widening of blood vessels resulting from relaxation of the wall of the blood vessels. It occurs to accommodate increased blood. Vasopressin: A hormone secreted by the pituitary gland that constricts blood vessels, raises blood pressure and reduces excretion of urine.
Venous tone: The state of constriction of veins in the body.
Ventricles: The two lower chambers of the heart.
- The National Heart Lung and Blood Institute
- Obesity Education Initiative Department of Health and Human Services
- National Institutes of Health
- PUBMED – National Library of Medicine and the National Institutes of Health
- Health risks of obesity
- What is obesity?
- Obesity – Hormones and genetics
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