Dear Reader

It is usual for doctors to use jargon to obfuscate – and to enhance the mystique of their profession. On this site, however, I would like you to understand what I am saying. To this end here is a glossary of terms to guide you and, I hope, make my blogs more comprehensible.
Do let me know if I use words or terms which you don’t understand and I will add them to this glossary.

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Accelerometer: Device worn to record movement, similar to pedometer but providing information on other activities

ADL Activities of daily living

AED Automatic external defibrillator. Device which passes electric shock to the chest – used after sudden death in attempt to revive the victim

Aerobic Requiring oxygen – usually to describe type of exercise.

AF Atrial fibrillation – a common rhythm disturbance of the heart.

Anaerobic Not using oxygen. Usually described type of exercise.

Arterio-venous oxygen difference The difference between the oxygen content of arterial blood as it reaches its target and the oxygen content of the venous blood as it returns to the heart.

Atheroma Patching narrowing of arteries, “hardening” of the arteries, responsible for heart attacks, strokes and peripheral vascular disease

Blood doping Technique for increasing oxygen carrying capacity of blood by transfusing athlete with red blood cells previously taken off. Illegal in competitive sport.

BMI Body mass index. The most popular way of assessing “fatness” – by dividing weight in kilos by height in metres squared.

Borg score or RPE, rate of perceived exertion. A way for exercisers to express how hard they find a particular exercise on a scale of 0 to 10.

Calorie A unit of energy. One calorie is the energy required to heat 1ml water by 1 degree centigrade. One thousand calories is one kcal sometimes written as a Calorie. This the usual unit to express the energy content of food.

Cardiac Output The volume of blood pumped out by the heart in unit time, usually expressed as litres per minute.

CBT Cognitive behavioural therapy – a talking therapy for psychological problems such as anxiety or depression.

Cooper test A method for measuring physical fitness based on the distance which can be covered on foot in 12 minutes.

Diastolic pressure The lowest pressure reached in the arterial system between heartbeats – in the blood pressure reading it is the second figure as in 120 over 80 (120/80)

Epidemiology The science of study of the causes of disease by association.

Gaussian curve  The bell shaped curve which shows the usual distribution of physical characteristics.

Glycogen A compound made up of multiple glucose molecules. Provides glucose storage and when needed is broken down into glucose for use in energy production.

Hippocampus A region of the brain concerned with memory and spatial awareness.

HCM Hypertrophic cardiomyopathy. An inherited abnormality of heart muscle which becomes abnormally thickened and is prone to cause dangerous disturbances of heart rhythm.

Joule A unit of energy. One kilojoule is approximately one quarter of a kilocalorie.

Lipoprotein A complex of protein and lipid circulating in the blood stream, transporting fats around the body, including cholesterol.

Meta-analysis A summation of a number of different clinical trials to confirm or disprove the effectiveness of a treatment.

Metabolic Equivalent Or MET which is the rate of energy production by an adult human at rest. It is expressed as millilitres of oxygen per minute per kilogram of body weight. It is equivalent to 3.5ml/min/kg.

Mortality The death rate usually expressed as the rate of death over a particular period or by a certain age. It is used to compare the effective of treatments in lengthening or shortening life.

Myocardium Heart muscle

Mitochondria Bundles of protein and enzymes inside cells. Their main function is energy production.

NNT The Number need to treat to give a specified result of a treatment.

Q Risk The risk of developing cardiovascular disease over the following years, expressed as a percentage.

Retinopathy Any disease of the retina of the eye. A particular feature of long-standing diabetes.

Sarcomere The basic unit of striated or voluntary muscle.

Sarcopenia Loss of muscle tissue. It is the most important element of frailty of old age.

Sleep apnoea Episodes of cessation of breathing while asleep. The typical sufferer is overweight and snores.

Stroke Volume The volume of blood pumped out by the heart with each beat

Sympathetic Tone The background activity of the sympathetic nervous system which controls such functions as heart rate and constriction of small arteries.

Systematic review A collection and summary of all the papers and research aiming to answer a particular question. When all the evidence is gathered the meta-analysis is the application of statistics to quantify the results.

Systolic pressure The highest pressure reached in the arterial system after contraction of the left ventricle – in the blood pressure reading it is the first figure as in 120 over 80 (120/80)

T2DM Type 2 diabetes mellitus. This is the so-called maturity onset diabetes. The body still produces insulin but not in sufficient quantities to keep the blood sugar level under control

VF Ventricular fibrillation. A disturbance in heart rhythm with each individual muscle fibre of the ventricles (the pumping engine of the heart) contracting independently of the rest. The heart stops pumping blood and death ensues rapidly unless the heart can be restarted by defibrillation.

VO2 The rate of use of oxygen by the body – expressed either as litres per minute or related to body weight as ml/minute/kilogram.

VO2max The greatest rate at which the body can use oxygen to fuel maximal effort. This the standard measure of physical fitness.

Watts A unit of energy expenditure (power) equivalent to one joule per second.



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