Terms You Should Know About Healthy Living

Blood Pressure

The force exerted by blood on your artery walls. It is measured when the heart beats (systolic pressure) as well as between beats (diastolic pressure) and is expressed as a fraction, such as 120/80 mmHg (millimeters of mercury).

Body Mass Index (BMI)

A mathematical assessment of your body weight relative to your height used to estimate a person’s body fat. To calculate your BMI, multiply your weight in pounds by 703, divide by height in inches (5 feet=60 inches), then divide again by height in inches.


A unit of measurement for the amount of energy that is released from food upon oxidation by the body.


The body's best source of energy, and, in fact, the most important source of calories for much of the world's population because of their relatively low cost and wide availability.

The three types of carbohydrates are:

  • Simple Carbohydrates - such as glucose, fructose, sucrose, and lactose, also called sugars. The body readily digests and metabolizes simple carbohydrates.
  • Digestible Complex Carbohydrates - large molecules made from hundreds of sugar molecules hooked together. In essence, sugar molecules are the building blocks of carbohydrates in the same way that amino acids are the building blocks of proteins. Starches are the most abundant polysaccharides in the diet and occur in many foods, including cereals, breads, dry beans, peas, and potatoes. The body digests polysaccharides into sugars.
  • Indigestible Complex Carbohydrates - also called fiber, are large molecules found in bran, whole-grains, fruits and veggies, but the sugar building blocks are linked together in such a way that the body cannot break them apart, so it does not supply energy or nutrients to the body. However, it does help digestion and elimination.

Cardiovascular Disease

Disease of the heart and blood vessels.


Another member of the lipid family that is a structural component of cell membranes. Some hormones and vitamin D can be formed from cholesterol. The body can make sufficient cholesterol to meet its needs but the main dietary sources of cholesterol in food coming from animals such as egg yolks, meat, poultry, shellfish, and whole-milk dairy products.

Congestive Heart Failure

Occurs when the heart cannot pump enough blood to meet the body's demands, causing blood to back up (congest) in the lungs and other parts of the body.

Coronary Artery Disease

Refers to problems with the arteries that lead to the heart (often includes narrow or blocked arteries).

Fats (also called lipids)

A large family of compounds that do not mix with water which are important sources of energy in our diet. Lard, butter, margarine, shortening, and cooking oil are almost pure fat; meat, dairy products, chocolate, cakes and cookies, nuts, and a few fruits and vegetables contain significant amounts of fat.

Fatty Acids

The major components of fats, which come in three basic types: saturated fatty acids, monounsaturated fatty acids, and polyunsaturated fatty acids. Saturated fatty acids are found mostly in animal fats—lard, butter and other dairy products and meat, for example—whereas monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fatty acids come mostly from vegetable sources.

Heart Attack

Occurs when the blood vessels to the heart become blocked by fatty deposits, reducing or halting the blood supply.

Heart Disease

An umbrella term for a collection of heart maladies. Any disease or condition that affects the heart falls under heart disease.

Heart Failure

Also known as congestive heart failure, heart failure occurs when your heart cannot pump enough blood to meet your body’s demands.

High Blood Pressure

A risk factor for heart disease, primarily caused by diet, family history, and lifestyle. A blood pressure reading greater than 120/80 is considered pre-hypertension. More than 140/90 is termed hypertension.

High Cholesterol

A risk factor for heart disease, primarily caused by diet and family history. High cholesterol is defined as a measurement greater than 200 mg/dL. LDL cholesterol levels greater than 130 mg/dL and HDL cholesterol levels less than 60 mg/dL are considered high.

Minerals (or mineral salts)

Involved in almost every aspect of our bodies functioning. Calcium, for example, is the most abundant mineral in the body and accounts for nearly 2 percent of body weight. More than 99 percent of the body's calcium is in the bones and teeth, but calcium is also essential for nerves and muscles to work properly. Phosphorus, magnesium and three minerals known as electrolytes (which include sodium, chloride and potassium) are also needed for regular functioning.


An excess of body weight and fat, obesity is defined as a Body Mass Index (BMI) of 30.0 or greater or about 30 pounds or more overweight.


The major structural material in almost all living tissue except bones, including hair, skin, nails, and muscles. There are thousands of different proteins in the human body, each with a unique function, but they are all made from smaller units called amino acids. The body breaks down dietary protein into amino acids and then uses the amino acids in proteins.

Risk Factor

A trait or behavior that increases the risk of heart disease. For example, smoking is considered a risk factor.


Fall into two families, fat-soluble vitamins and water-soluble vitamins. Fat-soluble vitamins such as A, D, E, and K are often found together with fats in food. Water-soluble vitamins mix readily with water, so they are not stored in the body but are washed out in urine. Vitamins C (ascorbic acid), Ba (thiamin), B2 (riboflavin), niacin, B6 (pyridoxine), pantothenic acid, biotin, folacin, and B12 (cobalamin) are water-soluble vitamins.

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