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This glossary aims to provide accurate definitions of key terms. Words in italics have their own explanations. If you feel there are terms that should be added to the glossary, please send an e-mail to with your suggestion.

Click one of the letters above to advance the page to terms beginning with that letter.


ABPM search for term

Ambulatory blood pressure monitoring, usually undertaken continuously for 24 hours.

ACEi search for term

Angiotensin-converting enzyme inhibitors; oral antihypertensive treatments that prevent the synthesis of angiotensin II, thus allowing constricted blood vessels to expand and thereby lowering BP. ACEi therapy may help to reduce the progression of renal damage in diabetic patients with proteinuria

Adherence search for term

Describes how patients follow (or have steady observance of) any therapeutic regimen agreed between themselves and their healthcare practitioners.

Adrenaline search for term

Also called epinephrine. Vasoconstrictive chemical released by sympathetic nervous system to increase heart rate.

Aldosterone search for term

Hormone secreted by the adrenal gland to signal the kidneys to conserve sodium and water, which raises blood pressure.

Angina search for term

Intense chest pain, symptomatic of CHD. Pain often radiates to the neck, arms or shoulders. Caused by inadequate blood supply to the heart. Associated with high blood pressure and may be a precursor to myocardial infarction.

Angioplasty (balloon) search for term

Cardiac catheterization procedure involving the inflation of a small balloon while the catheter is in situ in the artery, to increase blood flow and expand narrowed arterial tissue.

Angiotensin II search for term

Chemical that causes vasoconstriction, which may lead to elevations in BP.

Atherosclerosis search for term

Fat deposits that build up in arteries, leading to arterial wall stiffening and fat plaques that restrict or block arterial blood flow.

Atrial fibrillation, AF search for term

Irregular, abnormally rapid cardiac rhythm disturbance. Extremely common. 

Autonomic nervous system search for term

Controls involuntary processes including breathing or heartbeat. Divided into two systems: sympathetic and parasympathetic nervous systems. 

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Benign hypertension search for term

Essential hypertension that exists for a long time and which is generally asymptomatic.

Beta blocker search for term

Oral treatment for people with hypertension that blocks the effects of adrenaline and reduces stress on cardiac tissue, thus reducing the workload on the heart and thereby lowering BP.

BMI search for term

Body mass index. A subject’s weight in kg divided by his or her height in m2. There are differences in BMI levels that constitute normal, overweight and obese situations, depending on the ethnic origin of the individual.

BP search for term

Blood pressure.

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CAD search for term

Abbreviation for coronary artery disease.

Calcium channel blockers search for term

Class of antihypertensive treatment that reduces movement of calcium into arterial vessel walls and cardiac cells, thereby leading to arterial relaxation and reducing blood-vessel pressure.

CHD search for term

Abbreviation for coronary heart disease.

CHF search for term

Congestive heart failure; condition that describes inadequacies in the circulation of blood through the heart.

CME search for term

Continuing medical education. Common term for medical education that helps physicians, surgeons and other key healthcare professionals to refresh their skills and knowledge.

Compliance search for term

Describes how patients follow a treatment regimen in accordance with the advice given to them by their health care professional. Thus, people comply well or badly with things such as medication (e.g. taking the right tablets in the right numbers at the right times), or special diets (e.g. eating the right foods in the right amounts and avoiding other foods, etc.).

CV search for term


CVD search for term

Cardiovascular disease. Diabetes is associated with direct alterations in normal cardiovascular function.

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DALY search for term

Disability-adjusted life year. The number of years of potential life lost because of ill health, disability or early death. DALYs are a measure of overall disease burden.

DASH diet search for term

Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension. Fruit, vegetable and whole-grain-rich diet that aims to reduce the development of hypertension.

DBP search for term

Diastolic blood pressure; pressure of blood against arterial walls during cardiac relaxation phase (phase between heart beats).

Diuretics search for term

Pharmacologic agents that have antihypertensive effects by a renal action in which excess salt and/or fluid is removed.

DM search for term

Diabetes mellitus. A group of metabolic conditions characterised by hyperglycaemia due to defects in insulin secretion, action or both. It is important to ensure that blood pressure is effectively monitored in people with DM (type 1 or type 2).

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E/e’ search for term

Ratio of mitral peak velocity of early filling (E) to early diastolic mitral annular velocity.

Echocardiogram search for term

Ultrasonographic examination that indicates blood flow in the cardiac chambers and evaluates the structure and function of the heart and heart valves.

Electrocardiogram (ECG) search for term

Ultrasonographic examination used to evaluate the structure and function of the heart and heart valve.

Enzyme search for term

Enzymes are proteins that act as catalysts for biochemical reactions essential to life.

Epinephrine search for term
ESH search for term

European Society of Hypertension. See

Essential hypertension search for term

Hypertension associated with lifestyle factors (e.g. obesity, tobacco use); also known as primary hypertension; hypertension for which apparent physiological cause is not known.

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Gene search for term

A sequence of DNA that determines the structure of a particular protein.

Genotype search for term

The pattern of mutations present in particular genes, at the level of the DNA of an individual.

GP search for term

General practitioner/family physician

Guideline search for term

In a medical context, guidelines usually refer to documents detailing agreed best practice in a given area of medicine. Guidelines usually contain detailed reviews of the medical evidence supporting particular treatments, with recommendations on their use. Physicians are not absolutely constrained to follow guidelines, however, and may exercise their clinical judgement in individual cases.

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HCP search for term

Healthcare professional

Heart failure search for term

Chronic condition in which the heart cannot pump blood efficiently.

Heterozygous search for term

We each have two copies of each gene. A subject with a particular mutation of one gene, but not the other, is said to be heterozygous for that mutation.

Homozygous search for term

We each have two copies of each gene. A subject with an identical mutation of both genes is said to be homozygous for that mutation.

HRQoL search for term

Health-related quality of life; describes the effect that a medical condition (and/or its therapy) has on a patient’s physical and occupational function, psychological state, level of social interaction and somatic sensation.

Hypertension search for term

Persistently raised high blood pressure that, if untreated, may lead to organ damage (e.g. retinopathy, renal disease), arterial bleeding, cardiac disease, stroke or eclampsia in pregnant women. Normal adult blood pressure is 120 mmHg (systolic pressure; when the heart beats) and 80mmHg (diastolic pressure; when the heart relaxes). Hypertension is generally defined as when the person’s systolic blood pressure is ≥140 mmHg and/or their diastolic blood pressure is ≥90 mmHg. Where possible, repeated blood-pressure readings, ideally involving ≥24-h ambulatory monitoring, should be undertaken to assess levels throughout normal daily activities before a diagnosis of hypertension is made. Generally, hypertension is often asymptomatic, although some people describe experiencing headache, shortness of breath, chest pain, heart palpitations, nose bleeds and/or dizziness.

Hypertensive retinopathy search for term

Retinal blood vessel damage caused by untreated hypertension.

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IAS search for term

International Atherosclerosis Society. See

Ischaemic heart disease search for term

Abbreviated as IHD; also known as coronary heart disease (CHD) or coronary artery disease (CAD). The leading cause of death globally. Occurs when blood flow to the heart muscle is decreased by a partial or complete blockage of the coronary arteries. People with diabetes may be at increased risk of developing IHD.

ISCP search for term

International Society of Cardiovascular Pharmacotherapy. See

ISH search for term

International Society of Hypertension. See

Isolated systolic hypertension search for term

Characterised by normal DBP and elevated SBP. It usually occurs in the elderly because of non-compliance of the vessels.

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Malignant hypertension search for term

Serious condition in which BP rises suddenly and unexpectedly, becoming very high. Associated with seizures, headache and visual disturbance.

Myocardial infarction (MI) search for term

Or acute myocardial infarction (AMI). Commonly known as a heart attack, occurs when blood flow stops to a part of the heart, causing damage to the heart muscle.

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Phaeochromocytoma search for term

Rare tumour of adrenal gland tissue. Symptoms include headache, sweating, palpitations, elevated blood pressure, anxiety, nausea, tremors.

Portal hypertension search for term

Abnormally high blood pressure in the portal circulation.

Pre-eclampsia search for term

Toxaemia of late pregnancy characterised by high blood pressure, albuminuria (too much protein in urine) and oedema (fluid retention).

Prehypertension search for term

Prehypertensive state indicated by a systolic BP ranging between 120 and 139 mmHg or a diastolic BP ranging between 80 and 89 mmHg; prehypertension can be treated by lifestyle measures such as reducing weight and increasing levels of exercise.

Pulmonary hypertension search for term

Increase of blood pressure in the pulmonary arteries.

Pulse pressure search for term

Difference between SBP and DPB. May be a predictor of heart disease risk.

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RAAS search for term

Renin-angiotensin-aldosterone system; looped signalling pathway involved in BP regulation; if BP falls, the enzyme renin is released by the kidney and converted to angiotensin; BP is then raised by arteriole constriction, and enhanced aldosterone production in the adrenal gland, which promotes water and sodium retention in the kidney.

RCT search for term

Randomized clinical trial.

Renal sympathetic denervation search for term

Catheter-based endovascular procedure in which radiofrequency or ultrasound ablation is used to treat resistant hypertension.

Resistant hypertension search for term

BP >140/90 mmHg despite attention to lifestyle measures and treatment with three antihypertensive drugs in adequate doses (including a diuretic). 

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SBP search for term

Systolic blood pressure. Highest force of blood against arterial walls during the contraction phase of cardiac muscle.

Secondary hypertension search for term

Hypertension that occurs secondary to disease/dysfunction in other organs (e.g. kidney), blood vessels (e.g. aorta) or glands (e.g. adrenal gland).

Sphygmomanometer search for term

Traditional machine consisting of an arm cuff, simple air pump, valve and calibrated scale that measures BP when used in association with a stethoscope.

Spironolactone search for term

Steroid treatment used in forms of hypertension to promote sodium excretion and treat fluid retention.

Stent search for term

Metallic mesh tube inserted during cardiac catheterisation to widen or open blood vessels that are occluded due to atherosclerosis.

Stress test search for term

Exercise-based test, often conducted on a treadmill, where the patient’s heart rate is increased to a specific, predetermined level at which point electrocardiogram readings are made, to establish whether the patient has cardiac ischaemia or arrhythmia.

Stroke search for term

Cerebral event associated with disruptions to blood flow within the brain: blood-vessel leakage may lead to bleeding or blood vessel blockages may be caused by blood clots.

Systolic blood pressure search for term

Highest force of blood against arterial walls during the contraction phase of cardiac muscle.

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T2DM search for term

Type 2 diabetes mellitus

Transitional countries search for term

Countries that are classified between ‘developing’ and ‘developed’.

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Ventricular fibrillation search for term

A life-threatening cardiac arrhythmia characterised by rapid, irregular and ineffective twitching of the ventricles.

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White coat hypertension search for term

BP readings taken in clinical settings that indicate hypertension that is not present in normal daily life.

WHL search for term

World Hypertension League. See

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