2 Studying cardiovascular diseases

2.1 Using medical terminology: building a glossary

As you start studying a medical subject, it is useful to be familiar with the sort of terminology you will come across. Often there are similar-sounding terms with different meanings, e.g. hypo and hyper. There is medical jargon that needs deciphering, e.g. hypertension means high blood pressure. Likewise, the same acronyms can be used for different things, which can cause frustration (e.g. the two different uses of the acronym CVD – see Box 1 for a reminder). To help you with the medical terminology, this unit contains an accompanying glossary. Be sure to refer to it when you come across new or unfamiliar terms or when you need to revise them.

Many medical, scientific and technical terms are derived from other languages, such as Greek, Latin, Sanskrit and German. Understanding specialised terms can be made much easier with some knowledge of how complex words are made up of simpler ones. The study of the origins of words is called etymology; etymologies, while not being definitions, are interesting demonstrations of how our words have formed from other words and why the original words were chosen. For example, ‘cardiomyopathy’ breaks down into ‘cardio’ (heart), ‘-myo-’(muscle) and ‘-pathy’ (disease).

Activity 3: Using the unit glossary

You should allow 0 hour(s), 20 minute(s).

Pick five unfamiliar words from the following list and look them up in the unit glossary: angina pectoris, arrhythmia, bradycardia, cardiology, electrocardiogram, epidemiology, ischaemia, myocardium, pulmonary, tachycardia, thrombosis.

Use the glossary to find out what the difference is between the two (very similar) words atherosclerosis and arteriosclerosis.