Healthopedia's Healthopedia is a place where you can find simple definitions of health terms.  All definitions have been written by Harlem Health Promotion Center (HHPC) staff and reviewed by our Health Advisory Board (HAB) to make sure they are correct and complete.  For simple definitions of pharmacy and medication terms, check out our Pharmapedia page. 

A   B   C   D   E   F   G   H   I   J   K   L   M   N   O   P   Q   R   S   T   U   V   W   X   Y   Z


Abdomen: An area of your body often called the belly between the chest and pelvis.

A1C levels: This monitoring method is a way to look at your average blood sugar levels over three months-not per day. It's important for people with diabetes to know their A1C levels to make sure they're making the right food choices day-to-day. In many cases this number is even more important than the finger-stick reading that diabetes patients take with a glucose meter everyday. Your doctor has to do a blood test to find out your A1C level.

Accountable: Responsible

Acne: A skin condition that causes pimples, blackheads, or bumps on a person's face.

Acupuncture: A Chinese medical practice used to treat illness and relieve pain. It involves inserting needles into different parts of the body.

Acute infection: When microorganisms attack body tissues and then multiply. This hurts the cells and lasts for a short time.

Acute respiratory infection: An infection that keeps the body from getting oxygen and can result in death. 

Added sugars: These are sugars and syrups that have been added to foods and drinks when they are being made or prepared. This does not include sugars that are naturally in fruits and milk. Examples of foods with added sugar are cookies, ice cream, donuts, soft drinks, energy drinks and sports drinks.

Advocacy: Supporting and promoting the rights of patients and safety of health care.

Adolescence: The time period during development between puberty and adulthood, usually somewhere between the ages of 11 and 19. 

Adrenal gland: A triangle-shaped gland located on top of the kidneys

Ageism: Treating someone unfairly because of one’s age.

AIDS: Stands for "acquired immunodeficiency syndrome” is a chronic, potentially life-threatening  condition caused by the human immunodeficiency virus (HIV). By damaging your immune system, HIV keeps your body from being able to fight the organisms  that cause disease.

Air sacs: Part of the lung that holds air for you to breathe in and out.

Agribusiness: Various businesses involved in the production of food. These businesses include large farm operations such as those involved in the making, storage and distribution of farm equipment, supplies and other items the farm produces.

Alcoholism: Continued, uncontrolled, and greater than normal use of alcoholic drinks. 

Allergen: Any substance that causes an allergy. Common allergens include pollen, grass, dust and some medications.

Allergy: This is when your body reacts a certain way when it comes into contact with some things that are unfamiliar normal to the body. It is usually caused by objects outside the body, such as dust, pollen, certain foods, certain insects, or certain medications. Common symptoms are sneezing, itchy eyes, runny nose, difficulty breathing and skin rashes.

Alopecia: A medical condition which results in hair loss from the head or body. May be a possible side effect of many medications.

 Alternative medicine: The practice of using methods of healing which are not considered a part of mainstream or conventional medicine  like acupuncture, massage therapy, herbal medications, yoga, and meditation

Alzheimer's disease: A disease of the brain that makes brain cells slowly die. This leads to memory loss and a loss of thinking and language skills.

Amino acids: Amino acids are what proteins are made of. Proteins are the building blocks of the body. There are 20 amino acids that are used to make proteins such as muscles, hormones and enzymes in your body. Your body can make 11 of those amino acids, but you have to get the remaining nine "essential" amino acids from foods such as milk, cheese, eggs, meats, vegetables, nuts, seeds, and foods made from grains.

 Ampicillin: An antibiotic used to treat certain infections caused by bacteria. Some of these infections include pneumonia; bronchitis; and ear, lung, and skin, and urinary tract infections.

Anal sex: Sexual activity where the penis enters the butt.   

Angina: Chest pain. It happens when the heart isn't getting enough blood; and can often be mistaken for indigestion.

Anthropology: The study of humans especially their culture, beliefs and ways of living.

Antibiotics:  A medicine that helps a person or animal heal from an infection by destroying or limiting harmful bacteria. They are given by a healthcare provider through a prescription.

Antibodies: Immune system use the antibodies to identify foreign objects like bacteria and virus and help to fight with the disease.

Antidepressant: Medication that may relieve symptoms of depression.

Antioxidants: Antioxidants are a variety of very healthy substances in our food. Antioxidants help prevent damage to our body tissues. Because of this, many antioxidants are believed to reduce the risk of getting certain types of cancer, stroke and heart disease.  Antioxidants are found in high amounts in many foods, including richly colored fruits and vegetables (such as blueberries and carrots), red beans, and apples. They can also be found in surprising sources such as oregano, tea, olive oil, and chocolate.

Anus: The opening at the end of a person’s digestive  track from which they get rid of feces or poop.

Anxiety: A feeling of nervousness, fear, or worry that can be made worse by stressful situations or it can be a mental illness if it causes people not to function well.

Appendage: A part of your body that is attached to the main, larger part of your body. Examples of appendages include all of your fingers and toes, your hands and feet, and your arms and legs.

Aromatherapy: A form of alternative medicine that uses plant and other natural oils, known as essential oils, to enhance physical and psychological well-being.

Arteries: Passageways in the body, similar to veins, which carry blood away from the heart. Blood pressure is measured by the force it takes to pump blood through the arteries during and in between heart beats. Damage to the arteries can lead to heart attack and stroke.

Arthritis: When joints swell causing stiffness and making it difficult to bend.

Aspirate: To remove with suction.

Asthma: A chronic lung disease that makes breathing difficult. With asthma, there is inflammation of the air passages that results in a temporary narrowing of the airways that carry oxygen to the lungs. This results in asthma symptoms, which include coughing, wheezing, shortness of breath, and chest tightness.

Asymptomatic: The patient has a disease or infection, but has no symptoms or signs of the disease.

Atmosphere: The layer of gases surrounding the earth.

Athlete’s foot: A common fungal infection on the foot affecting the nail and surrounding skin. 

Atherosclerosis: A buildup of plaque in the arteries.

Atrial fibrillation: This is a condition where a person has an abnormal heart rhythm. The name comes from the fibrillating or quivering of the muscles in the two upper atria (or chambers) in the heart. Atrial fibrillation is often asymptomatic and is not in itself generally life-threatening. It can lead to heart palpitations, fainting, chest pain, or congestive heart failure. People with artrial fibrillation usually have an increased risk of stroke.

Autoimmune disease:  A condition in which the body's immune system is activated to attack normal healthy cells. This can then cause problems depending on which part of the body is involved. For example, autoimmune disease can affect the thyroid gland which helps to regulate the body's metabolism.

Back to Top.


Bacteria: Very small, single-celled germs that can cause infections in your body.

Bacterial infection: Unhealthy or unwanted bacteria that reproduce quickly in your body and give off chemicals called toxins, which can damage your body’s tissues and make you sick.

Behavior: The way a person or group of people act toward themselves or others. 

Behavioral research: A type of study that looks into learning about the behavior of certain individuals or groups.

Behavioral sciences: The study of how people behave or act with each other or the natural world. Examples include psychology and sociology.

Bell Commission: A team of medical experts who evaluated the training and supervision of doctors in the state of New York. They wrote a report that recommended doctors and medical residents should not be able to work more than 80 hours a week or for more than 24 consecutive hours. New York State turned these recommendations into law in 1989.

Benign: A term meaning that something (e.g. cells or tissue from a biopsy is not cancerous. Benign tumors may grow larger but do not spread to other parts of the body.

Binge drinking: A pattern of behavior that involves drinking enough alcohol to bring your blood alcohol concentration (BAC) to 0.08 grams percent or above. Men would have to consume 5 or more drinks, while women would have to consume 4 or more drinks in 2 hours.

Bioethics: The study of ethical problems that arise when conducting human (and animal) research. The goal of bioethics in research is to protect the autonomy, safety, privacy, and welfare of human research subjects

Bioethicist: A person who studies bioethics.

 Biological therapy: Treatment to boost or restore the immune system in order to fight cancer, infections, and other diseases.

Biology: The study of science. 

Biomedical doctor: A doctor that uses science-based information to treat patients. In general, this term is used to identify doctors who don’t incorporate CAM in their medical practices.

Biomedical reseach: A type of study that brings together biology and medicine.  

Biopsy: A medical test that includes the removal of cells or tissues to check if there is a disease or not by looking at the sample under a microscope.

Bipolar disorder: A mental illness that causes extreme changes in a person’s mood. It causes a person to shift from being extremely happy to being depressed or extremely sad within a short period of time and more often than the average person.

Birth Control:Methods used to prevent pregnancy including condoms and birth control pills.

Bisphenol A (BPA): A chemical that can change the way hormones (like estrogen) act within a person’s body. BPA is found everyday products like hard plastics, in the lining of canned goods, and in the paper receipts are printed on.

Black Women's Health Study: A research project based in Boston to study why black women have higher rates of hypertension, diabetes, stroke, lupus and breast cancer at a young age. The study hopes to learn the causes of these illnesses for black women, as well as learn what black women do to stay healthy. 59,000 women all over the United States have been taking part in this study since 1995. Questionnaires are regularly mailed out to gather information about the participants' health.

Bladder: A hollow organ in the lower abdomen that stores urine

Blind: Being unable to see.

Blister: An abnormal high body temperature.

Blood clot: A blood clot is a group of blood cells and other material from the blood that join together in a sticky blob to prevent the body from bleeding too much. Clots form when there is an injury to blood vessels.

Blood glucose levels: Glucose is a type of sugar. It is the main source of energy used by the body. Glucose levels are the amount of this kind of sugar found in your blood. Your blood glucose levels are tested to check for diabetes or monitor the treatment of diabetes.

Blood pressure: Blood pressure refers to the amount of blood in a person's blood vessels and the amount of pressure that the heart needs to use when it pumps in order to get blood circulating around the body.

Blood pressure cuff: A medical tool that is used, along with a stethoscope to measure blood pressure. The cuff is wrapped around your upper arm.  Using a pump, the cuff is tightened and then gradually loosened, while the person taking your blood pressure listens for your heartbeat.

Blood vessels: Passageways in the body that carry blood; the three major types of blood vessels are arteries, capillaries, and veins

Blood volume: The amount of blood in a person's circulatory system.

Body Mass Index (BMI): This is a way of measuring a person's weight based on their height. Many doctors use this formula to find out if a person needs to lose weight in order to be healthier. You can find out what your BMI is online using a BMI calculator. If the BMI is over 25, the person may be overweight and need to begin changing their lifestyle by getting more exercise or changing the food they eat. If the BMI is over 30, the person may need to lose weight in order to reduce their chances of getting diabetes, hypertension or any of the other health problems associated with obesity.

Bone: The matter in our bodies that holds us up. Many bones make up the skeletal system.

Bone Density: This is a measure of how solid bones are. The more solid (or dense) the bone is, the better. Minerals (like calcium) make up most of the bone's density. As we get older, bone density naturally decreases. Exercising to build strength and taking supplemental vitamins, like vitamin D and calcium, are great ways to make sure bones stay strong.

Bone marrow: The spongy part (marrow) of the inside of a bone.

Bone marrow test: A medical procedure used to test possible disease in the blood. The health care professional removes a small amount of spongy tissue (marrow) from inside the bone and looks at it under a microscope to study it for any diseases.

Bowel movement: Release of solid waste or stool (poop or feces) from the large intestine.

Bowels: The intestines. After food leaves the stomach it enters the intestines where it is further broken down and used up by the body. 

Brachytherapy: A type of radiation therapy.  It involves placing the radiation source or “seeds” inside the body where the cancer is located. The seeds give off radiation to kill cancer cells.

Brain: An organ in the head that controls the body's functions, movements, sensations, and thoughts.

Bran: The outer layer of a grain. It can be made into cereal. Bran is very nutritious because it has a lot of fiber and antioxidants.

BRCA1: Human genes that make special kinds of proteins that suppress tumors. When these genes don’t work right, the cells develop genetic changes that can lead to cancer.

Breast cancer: Another form of cancer that happens in the breast. This is when cells in the breast grow out of control. These cells can form masses called tumors that take over the breast.  

Breast self-examination: When a woman massages the full area around her breast, feeling for any lumps that are out of the ordinary. Click here for step-by-step instructions on how to do a breast self-examination. 

Breathing ventilator: A machine that mechanically moves air in and out of the lungs to allow breathing for a patient who cannot breathe on their own.

Brussel sprouts: A leafy green vegetable that looks like a very small cabbage.

BSN: Bachelor of Science in Nursing

B-vitamins: Vitamins that help your body get or make energy from the food you eat. They also help form red blood cells.

Back to Top.


Calcium: A nutrient commonly found in dairy products, such as milk or cheese, and helps build stronger bones. It is important for health and growth in children and adults.

Calisthenics: This is an exercise class that does not use weights or equipment. Students learn a variety of simple movements and stretches so that they can increase their body strength and flexibility using the weight of their own bodies for resistance.

Calluses: A hardened thick place on the skin, usually on the foot. 

Calorie: A calorie is what the body uses as energy to be able to keep you going throughout the day. For humans and animals, calories come from food. Food = Calories = Energy! Nutrition labels list the number of calories that are in one serving of food. Nutrition labels can be found on almost every food. The body burns calories for everyday functions such as breathing, digestion, or walking. Often people eat more calories than they need for these functions each day. When this happens, the extra calories are stored as fat in the body. One pound of body fat has 3,500 calories stored in it. To maintain a good body weight, an adult has to eat the same number of calories that he or she burns.

Cancer: A disease caused by the uncontrolled growth of cells in the body. These cells can form masses called tumors that invade other parts of the body. There are various things that increase risk for cancer: tobacco use, radiation, infections, lack of exercise, obesity, and pollution. There are more than 200 different types of cancer, including breast cancer, lung cancer, and skin cancer.

Canning:  Packing and preserving food in cans. It often includes adding salt or preservatives. Canning done at home is a healthier way to make foods last longer than canning done at factories because you have greater control over what is added. In order to can at home, you need the proper equipment. Visit National Center for Home Food Preservation to learn more about how do this at home.

Capillaries: Passageways in the body where oxygen, water and other chemicals move back and forth between blood and tissues; capillaries are a type of blood vessel.

Carbohydrates: Also called "carbs." The term is used broadly to describe foods like breads, rice, and starches. The body breaks carbohydrates down into sugars and is then used to provide energy.

Carbon dioxide: A major gas emitted into the atmosphere. While carbon dioxide is naturally present in the atmosphere, things people do (like driving cars and using more electricity) has caused the amount of carbon dioxide to drastically increase.  

Carbon monoxide: A colorless, odorless, highly poisonous gas. It is formed by the incomplete burning of the element carbon or something carbon like, such as gasoline.

Carbon monoxide poisoning: Carbon monoxide poisoning occurs when carbon monoxide builds up in your bloodstream. When too much carbon monoxide is in the air, your body replaces the oxygen in your red blood cells with carbon monoxide. This can lead to serious cell damage, or even death.

Carcinogens: Carcinogens are chemicals or substances that have been suspected to lead to cancer.

Cardiac pathophysiology lab: A group of medical researchers who study the cause of disease in the heart.

Cardiologist: Medical doctor who focuses on disorders of the heart.

Cardiology: Department of medicine that focuses on disorders of the heart.

Cardiovascular disease: Disease of the heart and blood vessels

Cartilage: A type of tissue in the body that is firm, elastic and flexible.

Cataracts: Clouding in the eye that affects vision. A common condition of older people 80 years or older.

CDE: Certified Diabetes Educator

CDN: Certified Dietitian/Nutritionist

Cells: All living things have cells - from plants to people to penguins. Each cell can be imagined as a building block. Like blocks, cells can be formed into an endless variety of different things. Cells (linked together) make tissues. Tissues come together to make organs, like the heart. Different organs like the heart, lungs, and stomach work together to keep the body running.

Central nervous system: See nervous system.

Cervical cancer: Cancer that forms in tissues of the cervix. It is usually a slow-growing cancer that may not have symptoms but can be found with regular Pap tests. Cervical cancer is almost always caused by human papillomavirus (HPV) infection. In order to remove the cancer, the cancerous part of the cervix has to be removed.

Cervix: The organ connecting the uterus and vagina.

Chemotherapy:The use of chemical agents to treat or control disease.

Chicken pox: An infectious disease causing a mild fever and a rash with itchy inflamed blisters.

Chi gong: See qigong.

Childbearing age: The age at which you are physically able to produce a child or to get pregnant.

Child development: The physical, mental, and emotional changes that happen in a person between birth and adolescence that allow the person to live independently.

Childhood asthma: The most common chronic illness in children. It is caused by the swelling of a child's airways. This makes the airways very sensitive which can cause the child to have trouble breathing, as well as coughing or wheezing. It is treatable. Doctors can work with children and their parents to keep the symptoms under control.

Chinese medicine: A range of traditional medical practices that started in China. For example, herbal medicine, acupuncture, dietary therapy, massage, and taiji/t'ai chi.

Chiropractor: Chiropractors deal with problems of the musculoskeletal system (which contain the muscles and skeleton). Chiropractors believe that when your spine is not in line with your body or not connected to other joints in the proper way, you can develop problems with your nervous system and your overall health will be poor. Chiropractors use equipment such as X-rays, order laboratory tests and use other things to diagnose a problem. Their treatments include massage, ultrasounds and manual adjustments to the spine among others.

Chlamydia: Is a common sexually transmitted infection (STI) caused by a bacteria. Chlamydia can infect both men and women and can cause serious, permanent damage to a woman's reproductive organs.

Cholera: An intestinal infection causing extreme diarrhea.

Cholesterol: Cholesterol is fat that's circulating throughout the blood. We have a certain amount of fat in the blood that's okay. But if there's too much fat in the blood it's not healthy. So, when we check someone's cholesterol we check how much fat is there. If the fat levels are too high we say that someone has high cholesterol levels.

Chronic disease: A disease that usually get worse slowly and last for a long time. It includes things like heart disease, stroke, cancer, and diabetes. Chronic diseases are the leading causes of death in the world.

Chronic infection: When microorganisms attack body tissues and then multiply. This hurts the cells and lasts for a long time—sometimes for a person's whole life.

Chronic kidney disease: A slow progressive loss of kidney function over a period of several years.

Chronic lung disease: Also known as chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, refers to a group of lung diseases that block airflow and make breathing difficult.

Circadian rhythm: The circadian rhythm is your body's clock that tells it when you should wake up, sleep, or eat depending on what is happening outside of the body over the course of twenty-four hours.

Circulatory system: The circulatory system is made up of blood vessels and muscles that control the flow of blood around the body. Blood continually travels through the body with the heart, the lungs, and the blood vessels (arteries, capillaries, and veins) working together to form a system that moves in a circle (the reason for its name).

Cirrhosis: A type of liver damage where a person's liver slowly worsens and stops working properly. It is commonly caused by excessive alcohol drinking, Hepatitis B, Hepatitis C or some combination of these things.

Civil rights activist: A leader of the political movement dedicated to securing equal opportunity for members of minority groups.

Civil rights advocates: People who stand up for Americans’ Constitutional rights. These include the rights of an individual or minority group. 

Cleft: A cleft is a gap or split in the upper lip, the roof of the mouth (palate), or sometimes both. It happens when separate areas of the face do not join together properly when a baby is developing during pregnancy.

Cleft lip: A gap or split in the upper lip that happens when the tissue that makes up the lip does not join completely before birth.

Cleft palate: A gap or split in the rood of the mouth that happens when the tissue that makes up the roof of the mouth does not join together completely during pregnancy. 

Climate change: A change in local or global climate patterns over the past 100 years. Research shows that it is caused by increased levels of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere caused by burning fossil fuels like oil for heating and gasoline for cars.

Clinical cancer trial: A type of clinical trial that is focused on cancer treatments. 

Clinical trial: A research study that finds new ways to prevent, diagnose or treat a disease. Those who get involved have different age, backgrounds, and may or may not have the disease. 

Coagulation: The process that creates a blood clot.

Colon: This is a large Intestine  (also known as bowels), which is a part of the digestive system.

Colorectal cancer: Cancer that affects the lining of the colon, also known as the large intestine or bowel, and rectum.

Comorbidities: When a person is diagnosed with one disease but may have another problem at the same time (example: diabetes and hypertension)

Community Care Coordinators: Trusted members of a community who help coordinate the services of different healthcare professionals who are involved with a person’s health (e.g. social workers, mental health professionals, primary care doctors). They make it easier for a person to get the care they need within a complex health system.

Community Health Workers: Trusted members of a community or organizations who provide basic health and medical knowledge and support to the people within the community. Because they have a deep understanding of the community, they are generally able to relate well to the people they serve and to link them to health and social resources.

Community gardening:  A shared piece of land on which a group of people garden as a community. On the land, plots may belong to individuals or groups.

Community Supported Agriculture (CSA): A program where you buy a “share” of one farmer’s harvest for the whole season. Usually you pay at the beginning of the season and get your “share” every few weeks.

Complementary and Alternative Medicine (CAM): Ways of healing and treatment that are different from what we may think of as the medical care you typically receive at a conventional doctor's office. Meditation, yoga, acupuncture, herbal treatment and massage are some examples of CAM therapies.

Complete protein:  A food or a combination of foods in a meal that have the nine essential amino acids in them. As long as you eat the nine essential amino acids that you need in a day, your body can produce the new proteins that it needs to survive.

Complication: Something that makes something harder to understand, explain, or deal with. In medicine, it is a condition that happens in addition to another disease or condition. This can make it harder to treat the illness. For instance, edema can complicate any other illness and make it difficult to heal.

Compost: A rich, soil-like substance made from organic matter. Composting is when humans help the process along by piling materials such as yard trimmings or food scraps with enough air and water to help microorganisms break it down.

Conceive: When a woman becomes pregnant with a child. 

Condom: A thin sheath usually made of latex or plastic placed over an erect penis during sexual activity to prevent pregnancy and the transmission of a sexually transmitted infection (STIs).

Congestive heart failure: Also called "heart failure." This is a condition when the heart can't pump enough blood to the body's other organs. There are several reasons why it occurs, such as: narrowed arteries (the heart doesn't get enough blood); previous heart attacks (scar tissue impacts how the heart muscle works); high blood pressure; disease of the heart muscle; heart defects; or infections and diseases in the heart valves or muscle.The "failing" heart keeps working, but not as well as it should. People with heart failure can't do as much physical activity because they become short of breath and tired.

Connective tissue: One of the tissues that supports, connects, or separates different types of tissue and organs in the body.

Consensual: Something that is agreed on or approved of by two people. 

Consent: Something that a person agrees to or approves of. 

Constipation: When your bowel movements (BMs) become more difficult or less frequent.

Constitution: The document that lays out the rights that each person in the U.S. has.

Contraction: When a muscle becomes or is made shorter and tighter when moving. 

Contracture: A permanent shortening of a muscle or joint when normally stretchy tissues are replaced by non-stretchy tissues.

Conventional medicine: A way of treating patients that is seen as the typical care you receive at an American doctor's office. Other names commonly used to describe conventional medicine include "Western medicine", "mainstream medicine", "biomedicine" and "regular medicine". Conventional medicine is practiced by various practitioners such as doctors, nurses, and psychologists. Conventional medicine is often compared to complementary and alternative medicine (CAM) because they use different ways of treating patients.

Core biopsy: A procedure in which a doctor uses a hollow needle to remove a small amount of tissue from the breast or other part of the body.

Corns: A type of callus found on the foot. 

Coronary heart disease: Narrowing of the small blood vessels that supply blood and oxygen to the heart.

Cortisol: A steroid hormone produced by the adrenal gland.

Counsel: To give advice or information on health or medication.

Couscous: A type of wheat product, which is steamed and served in a variety of ways. Couscous can be seasoned after it is steamed and eaten alone, combined with vegetables, or served over meat.

Curriculum: A teaching plan.  

Craniofacial: A medical term that relates to the bones of the skull and face. 

Cryotherapy: The use of extreme cold to freeze and destroy diseased cells in the body, such as cancer cells.

Cystoscope: A thin, tube-like instrument used to look inside the urethra. It has a light and a lens for viewing and may have a tool to remove tissues.

Cystoscopy: Examination of the bladder and urethra using a cystoscope, inserted into urethra.

Back to Top.


DDS: Doctor of Dental Surgery

Deformity: Something that is changed in form or shape from what it is usually is. 

Dehydrated: When the body does not have enough water. Mild dehydration can  be treated by drinking more fluids. Serious dehydration needs medical treatment.

Dementia: Dementia is a loss of brain function that tends to happen naturally in old age and also with certain diseases. It affects memory, thinking, language, judgment, and behavior.  Some symptoms of dementia may include trouble remembering recent events or recognizing people and places, trouble finding the right words when speaking or writing, problems with planning and carrying out tasks, and difficulty controlling moods or behaviors.

Depression: See: Depressive disorders

Depressive disorders: Mental illnesses that cause extreme feelings of sadness and hopelessness. It is one of the most common mental illnesses in the USA.

Dermatologist: A doctor who specializes in treating skin conditions.

Diabetes: People with diabetes have high levels of sugar in their blood. This is because their bodies have problems either making or using insulin. Insulin is a hormone that allows the sugar from food to be used by the body for energy. Diabetes can be treated by diet, exercise, pills and with insulin.  If blood glucose levels are too high in the blood, it can hurt the rest of your organs.

Diagnose: To find out what physical or mental condition someone has by examining them. 

Diagnosis: When a physician or healthcare professional tells you that you have a disease or condition that may need to be treated or managed by you or your doctor.

Diarrhea: Loose, watery stools or "poop". 

Diastolic blood pressure: The force against the walls of the arteries by blood in between heart beats.Click on the article here to learn more. 

Dialysis: Is a process that uses very specialized machines to replace the work of the kidneys. Depending on the diagnosis, there are two types of dialysis: Hemodialysis and Peritoneal dialysis. With hemodialysis blood flows through tubes that filter and remove wastes, some minerals such as sodium (found in salt), and water. With peritoneal dialysis, a special fluid is allowed to flow into the abdomen and is then drained out again. There are advantages of each method and the decision is made with the doctor who specializes in care of the kidney (nephrologist). If dialysis does not work, a kidney transplant is the only other option.

Dietitian: A health professional who has completed a minimum of a college degree in the science of nutrition and had supervised experience in many areas of health care that have to do with nutrition. These health professionals know how to apply educational techniques to plan and teach dietary changes to patients and the general public.

Digestion: The process used by the body to break the food we eat down to smaller parts. These smaller parts are then absorbed by the body or used for energy. Digestion begins with chewing. In the stomach, digestion continues with the stomach juices that are very acidic. Also known as the "digestive system."

Digital rectal examination (DRE): During this exam, a doctor checks the inside of the rectum and anus using his or her finger. The doctor feels for problems, such as tumors or other forms of cancer.

Dilation of eyes: This is an exam done by an eye doctor that allows him or her to see more of your retina or the light-sensitive layer of tissue at the back of your eye.

Diphtheria: A serious bacterial infection that is easily spread from person to person. It causes inflammation of mucus membranes in the nose and throat and affects breathing and swallowing.

Direct Care Counseling: This occupation provides continuous care to children or adults with special needs. Typical duties include helping children, adults, and seniors get through their daily tasks.

Disaster: An event that causes great damage and loss of life.

Disease: A medical condition that keeps the body or mind from working normally. 

Disorder: A physical or mental condition that keeps the body or mind from working normally.

Dizzy: A range of problems from feeling faint or lightheaded to weak or unsteady.

DNA (Deoxyribonucleic acid): A molecule that contains the genetic instructions that make each person unique. DNA, along with the instructions it contains, is passed from parents to their children. 

Doctorate: The highest level of an academic degree that allows a person to teach at the university or graduate level.


Drowsy: Also referred to as drowsiness, is a feeling for a need to sleep.

Drug interaction: See: drug-drug interaction

DrPH: Doctor of Public Health

Ductal Carcinoma In Situ (DCIS): An early stage of cancer where the tumor is only in the ducts or milk passages of the breast.

Back to Top.


Early detection: Finding out if a patient has a disease or condition before it develops into a severe problem.

Eastern philosophy: The thought processes and beliefs of various Asian countries, such as China, India, Iran, Japan, and Korea.

EBT cards: Are another name for Electronic Benefit Transfer (EBT) cards. They are what people use if they are part of the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP). SNAP is a government program to help people in need receive money to be used for food with an EBT card that looks just like a credit card.

EdD: Doctor of Education

Edema: Swelling in your feet, ankles, legs or other parts of your body, caused by excess fluid in your body's tissues

Ejaculation: The release of semen/sperm from the penis during orgasm.

Electromagnetic wave: These waves come in a very wide range of wavelengths. All are used in medicine in one way or another. For instance, radio-frequency waves are used in magnetic resonance imaging (MRI).

Electrolyte balance: The balance of minerals inside and outside our cells

Emphysema: A health condition where the air sacs of the lungs are damaged and causing difficulties breathing.

Empty calories: This is a term given to foods that have a lot of calories but very little benefit to your body. For instance, they are found in any food that contains  lots of added sugar, and/or lots of bad fats and oils  and does not have the nutrients the bodyneeds for energy and growth. For example: soda, sugary drinks, candy, cake, syrups, alcohol etc. 

Endocrine system: The collection of glands of an organism that secrete hormones directly into the circulatory system to be carried towards a distant target organ.

End-stage kidney disease: Also called Stage 5 kidney disease. The kidneys are no longer able to work to cleanse the blood on a day-to-day basis. This is the stage when dialysis and/or kidney transplantation is necessary.

Energy efficiency: Reducing the amount of energy needed to provide services and utilities like heating and cooling. For example, steps like insulating a home or sealing cracks in doors and windows waste less heating and cooling energy.

Environment: Anything that people come in contact with through their lives that can directly affect their health, or increase/decrease their chances of getting an illness. Examples of environment can include lifestyle habits (e.g. diet, exercise, smoking, drinking), place of residence, stress, family life, relationships, income, and employment status.

Enzyme: a protein in the body that helps chemicals and cells work properly. They help to make cells and chemicals in the body do their tasks faster and easier.

Epidemic: The term used to describe a disease when it affects a large number of people within a given time period.

Epidemiology: The study of how disease spreads.

Essential oils: See aromatherapy.

Estrogen: A hormone that manages a woman's reproductive system, sexual functioning and ability to carry a child.

Esophagus: The tube leading from your throat to your stomach that food travels down.

Ethics: Rules of how behavior based on ideas about what is good or bad.  

Ethnic groups: Ethnic group or ethnicity is often used the same way as race, but there is a difference. Race describes outside appearance such as the color of your skin, eyes, hair or even your bone structure. Ethnicity includes culture such as beliefs, nationality, and traditions. People of the same ethnic group are often the same race, but people of the same race are not always from the same ethnic group. For example, an African American man from New York City and a Senegalese immigrant living in New York City are the same race, but different ethnicities.

Evacuate: When you leave home to go to a safer location during an emergency.

Excrement:  A waste matter that comes out of the bowels. Also known as "poop."

Expectant management: Also called "watchful waiting". A patient and his/her doctor closely watch a condition or disease, such as cancer, for any changes before making any treatment decisions.

Exposure: Coming into contact with something dangerous such as chemicals.

External beam radiation: A type of radiation therapy. It involves the use of high-energy rays to destroy cancer cells or slow how fast they grow in the body. A machine is placed outside the body and a beam of radiation is directed at the tumor to kill the cancer cells.

Back to Top.


Fallopian tubes: A pair of tubes in the female reproductive system where the eggs travel from the ovaries to the uterus

 Family caregiver: Anyone who provides any type of physical and/or emotional care for an ill or disabled loved one at home. 

Family medical history: This is the history of your family's illnesses and medical conditions. It is important for you to keep track of this history since many diseases can be passed to you from your relatives. This information can help you know how likely it is for you to get certain diseases. Your doctor will probably ask you about it during regular check-ups, so you should bring notes with you about what you know of your family’s health.

Fast: When a person fasts it means they are not eating. To test for diabetes people are sometimes asked to fast. When you don't eat for a long period of time the body sends glucose (sugar) into your blood. If you do not have diabetes your body will make insulin to lower blood sugar levels. If you do have diabetes your body will not make enough insulin to lower blood sugar levels. If you have high blood sugar levels after fasting you may have pre-diabetes (above normal blood sugar levels) or diabetes.

Fatigue: A state of tiredness that involves decreased energy, motivation, and mental ability; different from drowsiness which is a feeling for a need to sleep.

Feces: This is the waste that comes from a person’s digestive track, also called "poop".

Female reproductive organs: Parts of the female body that are responsible in allowing females to have children.

Femur: The thigh bone.

Fermentation: A process using microorganisms like yeast or certain bacteria to preserve or make foods and drinks such wine, beer, cider, kimchi, yogurt, pickles, and leavened bread.

Ferritin: A protein that stores iron in our body so it can be used later. A blood test to check ferritin levels also measures the amount of iron in the blood.

Fertile: Something that is able to start, continue and support reproduction. 

Fetus: Unborn offspring or young.

Fever: A fever is a temporary increase in your body temperature, often due to an illness. Having a fever is a sign that something out of the ordinary is going on in your body. For an adult, a fever may be uncomfortable, but usually isn't a cause for concern unless it reaches 103 F (39.4 C) or higher. For infants and toddlers, a slightly elevated temperature may indicate a serious infection.

Fiber: It is found in foods that come from plants such as fruits, vegetables and grains. There are two types of fiber: soluble and insoluble. Both types of fiber are very important in keeping you healthy.

First dose effect: This is a side effect that can happen when a person takes a medication for the first time. Their heartbeat may slow down which can lead to low blood pressure, dizziness, and fainting. Usually these symptoms do not happen again even if a person continues to take the medication.

Flavonoids: An ingredient found in fruits, vegetables, plants and some beverages that can have beneficial effects for human health. Flavonoids are antioxidants.

Fluid balance: The balance of fluid inside and outside of the cells.

Folate: Is a B-vitamin that is needed for red blood cell growth and production.

Folic acid: Also known as folate is a B-vitamin that is needed for red blood cell growth and production.

Focus group: A small group of people whose opinions are studied to learn why they have those opinions that can be expected from a larger group. 

Food access: When a person has physical, social, and economic access to safe and healthy food. A person has “access” to food if they are able to afford it and physically purchase it in their own neighborhood.

Food behaviors: Habits people have with food – the habits could be “good” habits or “bad” habits. Examples of food behaviors could be drinking a lot of water each day, always eating breakfast, not liking or eating vegetables, not sitting down to eat, or skipping meals.

Food desert: A food desert is an area or neighborhood with little or no ability to buy or cook healthy food.

Food environment: The availability of food within a community. It is also how accessible the food is to the residents of the community. The food environment of a neighborhood has a large influence on what people choose to eat – or on what they can choose to eat. 

Food justice: Food justice is on both the consumer end and farmer end. It is having some control over getting healthy, fresh vegetables and fruits in an affordable and culturally-appropriate way. On the consumer end, it is getting affordable, healthy, fresh produce into communities. On the farmer end, it is helping farmers to develop reliable markets so they can stay in business and plan for long-term stability. It's working together so that everybody has the same ability to get fresh food.

Food Justice Movement: A movement that thinks everyone should have access to safe, healthy and affordable food. They believe all people have this right no matter if they are poor or live in a certain community.

Food Plate: A guide to healthy eating developed by the United States Deparment of Agriculture. The Food Plate is divided into four sections (vegetables, fruits, grains, and protein) with a side of dairy.  Vegetables and fruits take up half of the plate, with the vegetable section slightly bigger than the fruit section.  The other half of the plate is grains (bread, cereal, rice, tortillas, and pasta) and proteins (beef, poultry, fish, eggs, nuts, seeds, beans, peas).

Food system: Is the system that is in place for food production. This includes growing the food, transporting the food, processing it, packaging it, and marketing and selling the food and food products.

Food waste: Discarded, lost, uneaten, or spoiled food. Food waste can be created in retail locations, like a supermarket or restaurant, or through preparing food in the home. Some of this waste can now be composted in New York City to reduce the amount of garbage we create that goes to a landfill.

Fossil fuels: Fuels such as petroleum (gas), coal, and natural gas are naturally formed underground over millions of years—the reason they are called “fossil” fuels. They are used to power many kinds of transportation like cars and trucks as well as other man-made machinery.

Fortified: To make more nutritional by adding vitamins.

Fracture: The breaking of a bone or cartilage.

Frostbite: Is an injury to the body caused by freezing—usually during very cold winter weather. It most often affects the nose, ears, cheeks, chin, fingers, or toes. Frostbite can permanently damage the body, and severe cases can lead to amputation.

Fructose: This is one of many natural sugars. It is slightly sweeter that sucrose or white granulated sugar. It is found in honey, many fruits, and some vegetables (i.e. beets and other root vegetables).

Fungal nail infection: Fungal nail infections are common infections of the fingernails or toenails that can cause the nail to become discolored, thick, and more likely to crack and break. Infections are more common in toenails than fingernails.

Fungus: Part of a large group of organisms that include yeasts and molds as well as mushrooms.

Back to Top.


Gastric cancer: Cancer that forms in tissue lining the stomach.

Gastroenterologist: A doctor who specializes in the digestive system and things that go wrong with it. 

Gelatin: Animal bones, skin, hooves, tendons, cartilage, and ligaments mixed together. It forms a colorless, flavorless substance that is often added to various types of candy and baked goods as a way to bind ingredients together. 

Geneaology: A study of a family’s history showing how the different family members are related to each other. 

Genes: The part of a cell that controls or influences a person’s appearance, growth etc.

Genetic predisposition: An increased likelihood of getting a certain disease that is often inherited from a parent.

Genetic profile: Also known as a person’s genetic fingerprint. It is constructed by looking at a small amount of genetic material.

Genetics: How traits get passed from a parent to their children. These traits can be anything from eye color to hair color to high blood pressure or sickle cell disease.

Genetic testing: A test that looks for changes in genes that have already been identified in another family member. This test is done by getting a person’s DNA from a blood or saliva sample. 

Genitals: These are a person’s sex organs that are located outside the body. For men this is the penis, for women it is the vagina.

Genital warts: These are small, hard, rough, single or multiple growths on the skin near genitals.

Genome: All the genes that a living thing is made up of. 

Genomics: The study of genes and what they do. Genomics tries to understand the structure of the genome, including mapping genes and reading their DNA.

Geographic Information System (GIS): A software system that maps geographic areas or land so you can learn about information linked to those locations.

Government subsidies: A subsidy is a form of financial assistance paid to a business or industry. Most subsidies made by the government to an industry are to prevent a decline in that industry. 

Gland: An organ in a human or animal body that makes certain chemcial substances that help to control how the body works.

Glaucoma: Increased pressure in the eye which may lead to damage to the optic nerve. Damaged optic nerves in your eye can cause blindness. Blurry vision, severe eye pain, nausea and vomiting, redness in the eye, and halos seen around lights are all signs of glaucoma. African Americans over the age of 40, people over the age of 60 and anyone who has a family member who has glaucoma should get an eye exam at least every two years to prevent blindness.

Glucose: Glucose is a type of sugar. When people talk about "blood sugar"-they're really talking about their blood glucose level. The body uses glucose as a source of energy.

Glucose meter (Glucometer): Also called a finger-stick, it is a medical tool used for figuring out the amount of glucose in the blood (people sometimes call this "blood sugar"). People with diabetes use this tool at home to measure their blood sugar. The person pricks his/her finger and puts a small drop of blood on a test strip. The meter then reads the test strip and tells the person their blood sugar level.

Glycemic load: A number that tells you how high your blood sugar can go when you eat a certain food. 

Gonorrhea: Is a sexually transmitted infection (STI). The symptoms  for this disease are different depending on what part of the body is infected (anus, eyes, mouth, genitals, and throat). If not treated, this disease can keep a woman from being able to have children.

Gout: swollen, red, hot and stiff joints. Often, it first affects your big toe. It can also attack ankles, heels, knees, wrists, fingers and elbows. It is caused by high levels of uric acid (a type of waste in the body) in the blood that builds up around the joints. It can be treated with different medications that relieve pain, using an ice pack to cool the joints, and just resting the joints.

Grains: Grains are a family of plants. Examples of grains are: wheat, rice, oats, barley, and corn (that's right; corn is not a vegetable, it is a grain!). Grain plants make a lot of seeds.  We eat the seeds by boiling them, like we do with rice, oatmeal and corn, or by grinding the seeds into flour. Wheat flour can be made into foods like pasta, breads, crackers, etc.

Grassroots: A term used to describe a group of people from the community that join together for a common cause.

Green: Going "green" means to live in a way that takes care of the environment and protects natural resources. Some examples are: recycling, eating locally-grown fruits and vegetables, and walking instead of driving a car.

Green tea: This tea is made from the same leaves (Camellia sinensis) as dark tea that is popular in tea bags. There is caffeine in all tea unless it has been decaffeinated, however green tea has less caffeine than many other beverages. In general, green tea can be used as a substitute for coffee, black tea, and soda. You will enjoy better health if you make a decision to remove sugary drinks of all kinds. Green tea can also cause small improvements in your thinking, cholesterol level, and possibly your body weight. However, if you have high blood pressure, caffeine from all beverages may raise it slightly. Discuss this with your health care provider.

Consumers should be aware that all concentrated compounds may interact with medications. Always tell your health care provider about any products, including green tea extracts, you take.

Gynecologist: A physician who specializes in treating health problems related to any of the female reproductive organs.

Gynecology: The branch of medicine that deals with the diseases and hygiene of women.

Back to Top.


Harm Reduction: Programs that reduce the harmful effects of drug use and other high risk activities by making it safer to continue those activities or using drugs. An example of a harm reduction is a needle-exchange program that gives drug users clean needles to keep them from sharing dirty needles.

Hatha yoga: This is the physical practice of yoga.  It is most commonly practiced for mental and physical health.  The classes are usually slow-paced with stretches, simple breathing exercises, and meditation. Some types of Hatha yoga include: Bikram yoga, Iyengar yoga, and Ashtanga yoga.

Head lice: A tiny, wingless parasitic insect that lives among human hairs and feeds on tiny amounts of blood drawn area where they live like hair, pubic area etc.·     

Headache: A continuous pain in the head.

Health Bucks: A program to help people get more fresh fruits and vegetables with their SNAP benefits. When people buy five dollars worth of produce at farmers’ markets using their EBT cards, they receive a coupon for two dollars. Basically, they get seven dollars worth of fresh fruits and vegetables for only five dollars.

Healthcare professional: A person who has training, certification, or license to provide health care. For example, a doctor, nurse, pharmacist, dentist, clinic worker.

Health Care Delivery System: Also known as the health care system. It is the existing network of hospitals, industry, insurance companies, government agencies and healthcare professionals and others that provide healthcare services to help those who need care.

Health care system: See Health Care Delivery System.

Health inequality/disparity: Differences in the presence of disease and health outcomes or gaps in the quality and access to health and healthcare across racial, ethnic, sexual orientation, and socioeconomic groups. In the U.S., there is data that health disparities occur in minority groups, such as African Americans, Native Americans, Asian Americans, and Latinos. This means these groups have higher levels of chronic diseases and greater chances of death due to poor health. 

Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA): The Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act was signed into law in 1996.Title II of HIPAA was signed into law in 2003 and it includes The Privacy Rule, which prevents heathcare professionals from making a persons medical record and payment history public. It protects the privacy of a patient's health information and makes sure that all communication between patients and healthcare professionals remains private.

Health literacy: A person's ability to read, understand, and use health information to make health decisions and follow a doctor's instructions for treatment. Low health literacy decreases the success of treatment and increases medical errors.

Heart: An organ that pumps blood through the blood vessels of the circulatory system.

Heart attack: Scar tissue around the heart that affects how the heart works. 

Heart bypass surgery: A surgical procedure which adds another pathway for oxygen and blood to reach your heart. During this procedure, the doctor takes a vein or artery from another part of your body and uses it to make a detour around the blocked area in your artery.

Heart disease: Also known as cardiovascular disease. A type of disease that affects the heart, blood vessels (arteries, capillaries, veins), or both. Heart disease is the leading cause of death worldwide. It may be caused by high blood pressure and/or atherosclerosis.

Heart rate: Also known as your "pulse" is the number of times your heart beats per minute. It is normally between 60-100 when you are not active. Knowning your heart rate can help you track your fitness level or even spot health problems. The goal is to regularly increase your heart rate through regular exercise to strengthen your heart.

Hematologist: A doctor who specializes in the study of blood and blood diseases.

Hemoglobin: Is a protein that carries oxygen from the lungs to the rest of the body. It is found in your red blood cells. When your hemoglobin levels are low, you may be told that you have anemia.  

HEPA filter: A type of air filter that traps very small particles in the air that normal filters would miss. They are important for people with asthma or allergies because they reduce the amount of things like dust, pollen, mold, pet dander, and tobacco smoke in the air. They can be used at home. 

Hepatitis A: Caused from infection with the Hepatitis A virus. It is usually spreads through human waste or poop even in very small amounts. Illness can last from a few weeks to several months. The best way to prevent infection is a shot or vaccination.

Hepatitis B: This is a liver disease caused by the hepatitis B virus. It can spread through sharing needles, syringes, or other drug-injection equipment and by sexual contact with an infected person. It can start with no symptoms or mild stomach discomfort and lead to cirrhosis or cancer of the liver.

Hepatitis C: A liver disease that a person can get when blood from a person who has the Hepatitis C virus enters the body of someone who is not infected. This happens most commonly when people share needles to inject drugs. It can also happen through sexual contact when body fluids from a person who has the Hepatitis C virus enter the body of someone who is not infected.

Herbalist: A person who grows and uses plants, especially for use as medicine.

Herpes: A virus that creates sores, usually blisters on the body. 

High blood pressure: Also called "hypertension." Blood pressure is the measurement of how strong your blood pumps through your blood vessels. High blood pressure happens when blood has a hard time getting through the blood vessels, usually because the vessels are narrow. It means that your heart has to work really hard to pump your blood through your vessels.  

High cholesterol: Low-density lipoprotein (LDL) cholesterol can build up in your blood vessels as plaque making them so narrow that it's hard for blood to pass through. It's often called "bad" cholesterol because it can lead to things like high blood pressure. Another type of cholesterol, called high-density lipoprotein (HDL), is often known as "good" cholesterol because high levels of it seem to protect against heart attack. When your doctor tells you that you have high cholesterol, he or she is looking at both your "good" and "bad" cholesterol.

High-density lipoprotein (HDL): A type of cholesterol that is often known as "good" cholesterol because high levels of it seem to protect against a heart attack

High fructose corn syrup (HFCS): A common sweetener in many sodas, fruit-flavored drinks, and other processed foods. It is a combination of fructose and glucose. Fructose and glucose are in different percentages depending on use. There is much debate over how unhealthy HFCS is.

Hip: The region of the body around the joint between the femur and pelvis.

HIV: The virus that causes AIDS. It can weaken the body's defenses (immune system) and allow other infections to cause serious problems. The virus is usually spread through unprotected sex or sharing needles. Effective treatment is available and can help individuals live productive lives.

Holistic: To look at all the parts of something together and not view these parts separately. Holistic medicine practitioners not only look at symptoms of the medical problem, as most conventional practitioners do, they also look at many other parts of the person's life that might be contributing to their medical issue. For example, holistic medicine practitioners may ask questions about issues including how the person feels (their psychological state), their daily habits, where and how they live and the people in the patient's life.

Home health care: Refers to a wide range of health care services that can be given in your home. Often it is less expensive, more convenient, and just as effective as care you get in a hospital or skilled nursing facility.

Hookah: A tobacco water pipe with a long, flexible tube that draws the smoke through water contained in a bowl. It is used to smoke specially made tobacco and other herbal products, and is typically known as a recreational or hobby-like activity.  

Hormone therapy: The use of hormones in medical treatment. Some reasons for hormone therapy include: cancer treatment, aging, and sex reassignment.

Hormones: Chemicals released in one part of the body, that travel through the bloodstream to send out messages to tissues or organs and control/balance how they do their work. For example, insulin is a hormone made in the pancreas and when it is released into the blood, it helps regulate how the body uses glucose (a type of sugar) for energy.

HPV: An infection that causes soft growths on the genitals.

Human Papilloma Virus (HPV): These are viruses that cause diseases that you get through sexual contact, whether that is oral, vaginal or anal sex. This virus can lead to genital warts and cervical cancer. This infection can pass from one partner to another during sex. It equally affects all people regardless or their sexual orientation.

Human Papilloma Virus (HPV) test: A test that looks for the viruses (Human Papilloma Virus) that can cause genital warts abnormal cervical cells or cervical cancer.

Hurricane: A super rainstorm with high winds that causes flooding.

Husks: The outer shell or outer layer of a seed, fruit, vegetable, or grain.

Hydrate: To give water to restore or maintain fluid balance.

Hydration: Keeping the right amount of fluids in your body so that your body can work properly.

Hypertension: See "High blood pressure."

Hypertensive: When a person has been told by a doctor that he/she has high blood pressure.  After being diagnosed with high blood pressure, a doctor or healthcare worker will make suggestions for ways to lower the blood pressure and possibly prescribe medications.

Hypoglycemia: This happens when the body's blood sugar level is low.


Back to Top.


Immune system: The body’s natural disease-fighting system that protects you against germs and sickness. 

Immunization record: Also known as vaccination record. This form provides a history of all the vaccines you or your child received. This record may be required for certain jobs, travel abroad, or school registration.

Immunology: A branch of science that studies the immune system that protects your body from viruses and diseases.

Impotence: When a man cannot get or maintain an erection of the penis.

Infant Mortality: The death of an infant before the age of one.

Infant mortality rate: The number of babies out of 1,000 births that die before the age of one.

Infection: When bacteria or a virus attacks the body or makes someone ill.

Infectious disease: A disease that is caused by contact with germs, specifically bacteria and viruses. Each germ can cause a disease or be spread in specific ways, some by touching, eating, drinking or breathing it in. Certain infectious diseases can also be spread through sexual contact or sharing needles.  Getting vaccines, washing your hands, drinking clean water, and practicing safe sex are some of the ways you can protect yourself from catching infectious diseases.

Infertility: Not being able to get pregnant.

Inflammation: One way that the body responds to infection, irritation or other injury. You can see or feel it outside your body by redness, warmth, swelling and pain. It can also be inside your body, like in the case of asthma.

Influenza: A viral infection of the respiratory passages. It is easily spread from person to person. Influenza causes inflammation of the respiratory tract, fever, and muscular pain.

Informed consent: When a research participant signs a form confirming that he or she have been told exactly what the research will involve and agree to all the terms.

Insomnia: This is a prolonged and continuous inability to sleep that leads to too little sleep. It can be due to difficulty falling or staying asleep, or waking up early or frequently from sleep.

Insulin: A hormone that our bodies make. It helps glucose leave your bloodstream and get into your cells. People who have Type I diabetes do not make insulin naturally. People who have Type 2 diabetes either do not make enough insulin or the cells in the body are ignoring the insulin that is being made.

Integrative medicine: Integrative medicine is a way of treating diseases by looking at different areas of a person's life that might cause illness. Practitioners who use integrative medicine work similarly to conventional medicine practitioners, but they also take a holistic approach to treatment by working with the patient on other non-medical ways to improve health such as helping a patient eat better and reduce stress.

Internal medicine doctors: Doctors who have special training that focuses on how to prevent and treat adult diseases

Intestine: A part of the digestive system that goes from the stomach to the anus. It includes the small intestine and large intestine.

Iron: Iron is part of hemoglobin, a protein that carries oxygen from our lungs throughout the body. It helps the muscles store and use oxygen.

Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS): A common condition that affects the large Intestine or colon. The symptoms include cramping, pain in the stomach, gas, bloating, diarrhea or constipation. Despite these uncomfortable signs and symptoms, IBS doesn't cause permanent damage to your colon. In many cases, you can control irritable bowel syndrome by managing your diet, lifestyle and stress. Check the word Digestion.

Back to Top.


Joint: The place where bones connect.

Back to Top.


Kidney: Your body's filter. It helps cleanse it of the impurities, or poisons, that the body makes all the time.

Kidney disease: See kidney failure.

Kidney failure: Kidney failure (also known as kidney disease) means that a person's kidneys are not working as well as they should be. When kidneys begin to fail, it means that they aren't filtering poisons from the body. This also means that the salt that we eat everyday isn't being cleared from the body.

Kidney stones: Small, hard deposits (or "stones") that form inside your kidney. The stones are made up of minerals found in urine that builds up in the kidneys. These deposits usually pass through the bladder without any symptoms. When you are told you have kidney stones, it means that they have become large enough to cause severe pain in the groin or back. If you are having trouble peeing or there is blood or pus in your urine, you should call you doctor immediately and have it checked!

Kinesthetic: Awareness of the body and movement. Understanding what is going on inside and outside the body.

Kinesthetic education: A field that focuses on bringing attention to our bodies. Kinesthesia is a basic sense; it is the ability to feel one's own body especially while moving. Kinesthetic educaiton teaches people to pay more attention to their bodies and the sensations they feel, so they may notice physical imbalances earlier and therefore avoid illnesses.

Knee: The joint between the thigh and the lower leg in humans.

Back to Top.


L.Ac: Licensed Acupunturist

Land trust: A private, nonprofit organization that takes ownership of land. It actively works to conserve/protect land, such as farms, ranches, forests, mountains, urban parks, and coastlines. 

Landscape architect: A person who plans, designs, arranges, and changes parts of the land, urban areas, o-r gardens for practical or artistic reasons.

Labia: The inner and outer folds of the vulva.

Legume: This is a plant species that has seed pods that split along both sides when ripe. Examples include beans, lentils, peanuts, peas, and soybeans. Legumes are high in protein, iron, and vitamin B.

Leptin: A hormone that is normally in males and females. It is made mainly in fat cells and it is very important in regulating the signal that tells your brain that you have had enough to eat. Problems with making or using leptin have been linked to overeating and excess body weight.

Lethargic: To feel tired and have low levels of energy.

Licorice: The root of Glycyrrhiza glabra plant from which you can extract a sweet flavor.  Licorice extract is produced by boiling licorice root and evaporating most of the water. The extract is sold as a solid or in syrup form as a sweetener.  Licorice flavor is also found in wide variety of candies like TwizzlersTM.

Lifestyle changes: Long-term changes that you stick to every day. These changes will only help you if you do them over a long period of time. For example, eating less salt by changing your food choices every day, getting more physical activity by walking three times a week, meditating daily to relieve stress. 

Life-threatening: Anything that causes high risk of death. 

Liver: A large organ found in your abdomen that removes toxins from blood, helps break down food, and stores energy for your body in the form of a sugar.

LMSW: Licensed Master Social Worker

Low-density lipoprotein (LDL): A type of cholesterol that is also known as "bad" cholesterol because it can lead to things like high blood pressure. It can build up in your blood vessels as plaque, making them so narrow that it's hard for blood to pass through. 

Lumpectomy (partial mastectomy): Surgery in which only the cancerous lump and a small amount of normal surrounding tissue is removed in order to preserve the breast. See also: mastectomy.

Lungs: Each of the pair of organs located in the rib cage. They are made up of elastic sacs like balloons  with branching passages into which air is drawn, so that oxygen can pass into the blood and carbon dioxide be removed.

Lung cancer: When cancer forms in one or both of the lungs. It usually takes place in the cells that line the area where the air passes through.

Lung specialist: A doctor who has special training, knowledge, and skills in finding, and treating lung conditions and diseases.

Lupus: An illness where your immune system attacks healthy cells and tissues by mistake, which can damage your joints, skin, blood vessels and organs

Lymphatic system: A network of vessels that carry a flear fluid called "lymph," draining it from the tissues into the blood.

Lymphoma: Cancer that begins in the cells of the immune system.

Back to Top.


MA: Master of Arts

Magnesium: A mineral that helps lower the chance of having asthma and diabetes. Most commonly found in nuts, vegetables, coffee and tea.

Magnetic field: The area near a magnetic body or a something that carries a current (or energy, sort of like electricity) where magnetic forces can be detected.

Magnetic resonance imaging (MRI): A type of imaging test that uses a magnetic field and radio waves to create detailed images of the organs and tissues within your body.

Malignant: A term meaning that something is cancerous. Malignant tumors can destroy nearby tissue and spread to other parts of the body.

Mammogram: X-ray film of the soft tissue of the breast.

Mammography: A procedure to find breast tumors by using x-rays.

Massage therapist: Someone who is trained to perform massage therapy.

Massage therapy: Involves the use of hands, fingers, elbows or feet to apply pressure and rub certain parts of the body like muscles and tendons.  This is performed by a trained massage therapist to increase relaxation and help with healing.

Mastectomy: Surgery to remove all breast tissue, usually for breast cancer. See also: lumpectomy.

Maternal thyroid disease:  During pregnancy, a woman's thyroid gland may increase in size and not work correctly due to changes in hormones. This caused by an increase in estrogen and other hormones that make a pregnant woman's metabolism slow down in the first three months of pregnancy.

MD: Doctor of Medicine

Measles: An infectious viral disease causing fever and a red rash on the skin, typically happens in childhood.

Medical history: Information collected by a doctor who asks specific questions about the patient's past health health issues, current health habits, and immediate family member's health history  that might then affect the patient.

Medical Home:  A model of providing health care that focuses on the patient as a whole. This includes creating partnerships between the patient, their primary doctors who are work with medical specialists, the patients’ family and their community.

Medical sociology: A field of study that focuses on how health and social factors like race/ethnicity, gender, education, and income are related.

Medical specialists: Doctors who focus in a specific branch of medicine. For example, a pediatrician that focuses in the care, diseases and treatment of babies and children. Or a cardiologist that focuses on the disorders of the heart.

Meditation: The practice of concentrated focus upon a sound, object, actual/mental image, the breath, movement, or attention itself in order to increase awareness of the present moment, reduce stress, promote relaxation, and enhance personal, spiritual, and physical well-being.

Melanin: Melanin is a substance that gives color to hair, skin, and iris of the eye. It also protects the skin from the sun. People with dark skin have more melanin than light-skinned people.

Melatonin: This is a hormone produced by the brain, that regulates the body’s sleep-wake cycle.

Meningitis: This is a disease that affects the brain and spine. It is spread in several ways—by a virus, a fungus, or bacteria. The bacterial form can be prevented by having a vaccine or shot that protects your immune system against this disease.

Menopause: The term used for the time when a woman stops menstruating.

Menstrual cycle:  The series of changes that occur regularly in a woman's body, beginning with bleeding from the vagina (getting a period). Each cycle usually lasts about 28 days and allows a woman's body to prepare for the possibility of pregnancy. 

Mental health: A state of well-being which allows a person to use his/her own ability, deal with stresses, work productively, and participate in his/her community.

Mental health counselor: A mental health counselor works with families, individuals, and groups to treat mental health issues. Their work is different from psychologists and psychiatrists, who also deal with mental health, because they also focus on informing people about mental illness to help them.  Their counseling highlights a person’s own strengths and abilities so that they are better able to live with their condition. Counselors examine everything that causes mental conditions in people. They look at people's environments, emotions, and physical and behavioral health. These different things give counselors a complete picture of a person and what he or she is going through.

Mental illness: A health condition that changes a person’s thinking, feelings, or behavior (or all three) and makes it difficult for a person to function in society.

Metabolism: There are many chemical reactions in the body's cells that transform food into the energy (or calories) the body needs to exist. Metabolism is the process of using nutrients from food to build, break down and repair the body.

Metastatic disease: When a disease spreads from one body part or organ to another body part in a different area of the body.  This often occurs in late stages of cancer.

Microcalcifications: Deposits of tiny amounts of calcium that occurs in the breast, it is visible as tiny spots on mammogram.

Microorganism: A very small organism that can only be seen with a microscope. Examples include bacteria and yeast.

Milligram: One thousandth (1/1,000) of a gram. One level teaspoon of table salt weighs about 6 grams or 6000 milligrams.

Mind-body medicine: Mind-body medicine is based on the idea that the mind can have a positive or negative effect on the body. Because the mind and body are believed to be closely connected, a person needs to maintain a positive attitude in order to heal the body.

Mineral: Also called mineral nutrients or dietary minerals. They are needed to support human life and help your body grow, develop, and stay healthy. The body uses minerals to perform many different functions — from building strong bones to transmitting nerve impulses. We get minerals from our food and there are 7 major minerals essential for good health: sodium, potassium, calcium, phosphorus, magnesium, chloride, and sulfur.

Mold: These are a type of very small fungus that require some type of moisture to grow. It can lead to allergic and respiratory problems.

Mole: A small, dark, circular growth on the skin. Most people have some. Moles are normal, but changes in the appearance of the mole or new mole growth can be a sign of skin cancer.

Mood disorders: A psychological condition that results in changes in mood. An example would be depression.

MPH: Master of Public Health degree

MS: Master of Science degree

MSTOM: Master of Science in Traditional Oriental Medicine

Mucus: The thick, slimy secretion of the mucus membranes that moistens and protects them. 

Mucus membranes: Lines body passages that are in contact with air and work with other cells that produce mucus.

Mumps: An infectious viral disease causing swelling of the parotid salivary glands in the face.

Muscle: A tissue made up of cells, the contraction of that helps us move our body. 

Mutation: A change in the genes of a living thing that causes physical changes to make it change from its usual form. 

Mutual monogamy: Is when you and your sexual partner decide not to have sex with anyone else besides each other.

Back to Top.


Nasal congestion: When your nose is stuffy or blocked.

Nausea: Feeling that you want to vomit.

Needle biopsy: The removal of tissue or fluid with a needle for examination under a microscope.

Nervous system: An organ system made up of the brain and the spinal cord (the central nervous system), and nerves and sensory organs (the peripheral nervous system) that control major body functions

Neurologist: A brain doctor. They treat problems that people have with their brain, spinal cord, and nerves. If you are having problems with your memory, balance, movement, speech, language, or anything else that involves thinking, you should go see a neurologist.

Neuroscience: The scientific study of the nervous system.

Nicotine: The chemical in cigarettes that causes addiction which then may lead to disease such as lung cancer or emphysema.

Numerical results: Results from research that deal with numbers. 

Nutrients: Are groups of substances found in foods. They help the body build and repair tissues and provide energy. Examples of nutrients are: vitamins, minerals, carbohydrates, fats, proteins, and water. Except for water, there is a variety of each nutrient group. If any of the nutrients is missing from the diet or not taken into the body, death will very soon or eventually result.

Nutrition: The process of eating healthy food to give your body nutrients necessary for life and growth. It can also be the scientific study of what and how people eat, and educating them to eat healthy food.

Nutritional supplements: Vitamins, minerals, herbs or other nutrients that we eat in addition to regular food to help boost our nutrition. Sometimes nutritional supplements are also called dietary supplements.

Nutritionist: An expert who knows how food and diet affect your health. These people work with individuals or groups to plan healthy diets. 

Nutritional: Food that is full of nutrients that promote health.

Nutritional Label, or Nutrition Facts Panel: A label found on packaged foods that contains information about serving size, calories, nutrients, and ingredients contained in the item.

Back to Top.


Oatmeal: A porridge made out of the oat grain. Eaten daily, oatmeal can have health benefits like lowering cholesterol because of it has a lot of  fiber.

Oats: A type of cereal grain.

Obesity: If a person is obese it means they are extremely overweight. They are more likely to have health problems such as heart disease, diabetes, stroke, and some cancers. A person is obese if they have a Body Mass Index (BMI) of 30 or greater.

OB/GYN: This is short for obstetrician and gynecologist. An OB/GYN is a physician who specializes in delivering babies and treating health problems related to any of the female reproductive organs

Obstetrician: A physician who specializes in delivering babies.

Occupational exposure: Occurs when a person is doing their job and there is a risk of infection or of other harm from the worksite. 

Occupational therapist: A healthcare professional that helps people learn how to complete daily activities that they may not be able to do easily because of an illness.

Olfactory system: The sensory system used for the sense of smell.

Omega-3 fatty acids: These are known as "good fats." They are an important part of a healthy diet. They can be found in fatty fish (like salmon, sardines and light canned tuna) as well as certain nuts and plants. Having a lot of omega-3 fatty acids in your diet can reduce your risk of heart disease, stroke, lower your blood pressure, have a positive effect on your mood, and many more benefits.

Oncology:The branch of medicine that deals with cancer research and treatment.

Open-ended questions: Types of questions that cannot be answered with "yes" or "no" responses. 

Oral sex: Sexual activity where the genitals of one partner are stimulated by the mouth of the other.

Organ transplant: Moving an organ from one body to another body, to replace an organ that no longer works or was removed.

Organism: This is a living system (such as animal, fungus, microorganism, or plant) that can respond to stimuli reproduce, grow, and remain stable.

Organs: Major parts in the body, such as the heart, stomach, and lungs.

Orgasm: A feeling resulting from maximum sexual stimulation.

Organic foods: When any food (whether made from ingredients that come from an animal or plant) has been grown without the use of any synthetic (manmade) products to prevent weeds, kill bugs and fungus, or enhance growth.

Organic matter: Any substance that is composed of what remains of things that were living at one point in time, such as plants, animals, and their waste products.

Organism: An individual animal, plant or single-celled life form. 

Orofacial clefts: Cleft lip and cleft palate.

Osteoporosis: A bone disease that makes bones fragile and easy to break. There are no symptoms and no pain until a bone breaks. It can be prevented by exercising to prevent falls and by taking vitamins with calcium and vitamin D

Osteoporotic fracture: A broken bone caused by osteoporosis.  

Outcome: An end result. In health, it can refer to the end result of an illness or disease.

Ovaries: A female reproductive organ where the eggs are made. 

Oxygen: Also written as “O”. Oxygen is necessary for life playing important roles in cell growth and the transfer of nutrients in blood through the body.

Back to Top.


Pancreas: A gland behind your stomach and in front of your spine that helps break down food and control blood sugar levels

Pancreatitis: Tenderness or inflammation in the pancreas. It is most commonly caused by heavy alcohol drinking and gallstones (build up of material in the gallbladder).

Pap test: A test that looks for precancers, which are cell changes on the cervix that might become cancer if they are not treated. A procedure in which cells are scraped from the cervix and looked at under a microscope.

Paralysis: When you can't use muscles in part of your body

Parasite: An organism that lives and feeds off a host for survival. Parasites can cause diseases in humans.

Parotid salivary glands: They are the glands in the mouth that makes saliva.

Partially hydrogenated: This term is used to refer to certain cooking oils. When oils are partially hydrogenated, it means that they contain trans fats, which are bad for your health.

Peak Flow Meter: A portable device used to measure your ability to push air out of your lungs. Many doctors recommend these devices for people who have asthma.

Pedestrian: A person walking or running on the streets or sidewalks.

Pedometer: A device that you wear that keeps track of the distance you have walked or run. It senses your movements and counts the number of steps you take.

Pelvis: The lower part of the body between the abdomen and the thighs.

Penicilln: An antibiotic made naturally by certain blue molds. It is now man made.

Pesticide: A chemical that protects plants or animals by killing insects or other living things that can harm them. Although pesticides have their benefits, they can be toxic to people.

 Penis: The male sex organ.

Pharm D: Doctor of Pharmacy

PhD: Doctor of Philosophy

Phlebotomy: A procedure that removes blood (and iron) from your body. A needle is inserted into a vein, and your blood flows through an airtight tube into a sterile container or bag.

Phthalates (pronounced THAL-ates): A chemical that found in common items like some plastic. Phthalates may cause childhood problems such as mental, movement, and behavior issues such as eczema, airway inflammation, and negative effects on development of reproductive system.

Physical activity: Any activity that gets your body moving. This includes regular formal exercise as well as activities of daily living like climbing stairs, housework, and walking for errands. Regular physical activity helps improve your overall health and fitness, and reduces your risk for many chronic diseases, including diabetes, heart attack, stroke, and high blood pressure. It also strengthens bones, tones and strengthens muscles, and helps improve your mood. Regular physical activity is also the best way of keeping your weight off after you lose weight. People should get at least thirty minutes of moderate intensity physical activity five times a week, or vigorous exercise 3 times a week for 20-60 minutes. Moderate intensity means that it's hard enough to raise your heart rate and break a sweat; vigorous activity means you're breathing hard and fast, and your heart rate has gone up quite a bit.

Physical therapist (PT): A healthcare professional who helps people recover from injuries. A PT shows a person how to stretch and rebuild strength in their muscles after an injury or other health event.

Physician: A healthcare professional who has a license to practice medicine also known as/or called a doctor.

Physiological: Anything having to do with physiology.

Physiology: is the study of life and how living things complete day-to-day functions. It helps us understand how the body works, from cells, to entire body systems (the muscle system). It also studies how separate parts of the body work together, and how the body reacts to different conditions outside of it, such as changes in the weather. 

Phytonutrients: Also known as Phytochemical. Any word that begins with "phyto" is referring to a plant (rather than an animal). A phytochemical is a chemical (or substance) that is only found in plants.  Nutrition educators encourage consumers to eat lots of foods that come from plants.  These include: nuts, beans, vegetables, fruits, mushrooms, and grains.

Plant-based foods: These are foods that include fruits, vegetables, grains (whole grains are best), peas and beans, nuts, and seeds. Foods made from these categories include bread, pasta, and mixtures such as vegetable soups.

Plaque: Plaque is the buildup of fat, cholesterol and other substances in a blood vessel. 

Pneumonia: A lung inflammation caused by bacterial or viral infection, in which the lungs fill with pus and may limit breathing.

Podiatrist: A medical provider who specializes in taking care of feet. 

Pollutants: Toxins, chemicals in the air that are dangerous to your health and cause damage if you breathe them in too long and/or too often.

Polyp: Polyps are growths that look like grapes that attach to the walls of the colon.

Post-partum hemorrhage: When a woman loses more than 500 milliliters to 1000 milliliters of blood within 24 hours after giving birth to a baby.

Porridge: A dish made by steaming a chopped, flattened or whole grain (like oats, corn or rice). It can be served with soy, rice, almond or cow’s milk, or a sweetener like honey or maple syrup.

Portion size: The amount of food you actually eat. You can decide whether your portion size is big or small.  Many people confuse portion size with serving size. For example, bagels and muffins are often sold in sizes that are equal to two serving sizes. Thus, you often eat the whole muffin or bagel thinking that you are only eating one serving, but you are really eating a big portion size that contains two servings.  When choosing your portion, try to make it as close as possible to the serving size that is suggested on the package. If it is not a packaged item, you can find calories and suggested amounts per serving online.

Post-traumatic stress disorder: A mental state or reaction that occurs after a person goes through a very stressful event. Some examples are wartime combat, physical violence, a car accident or a natural disaster.

Posture: A position or pose that you make with your body. For example, there are many postures created when you are practicing yoga, such as Savanasa, cobra pose, and downward-facing dog.

Potassium: A mineral that is commonly found in our diets and helps maintain normal water balance in the body, normal muscle growth, and healthy nervous system and brain function. It is most commonly found in bananas, potatoes, tomato paste and orange juice. 

Practitioner: Another word for a doctor or other healthcare professional.

Pre-diabetes. This means that your blood sugar level is higher than normal, but not yet high enough to be classified as Type 2 Diabetes--which is the most common form of the disease. You can tell if you have pre-diabetes or diabetes by having your doctor give you a blood test that checks your A1C levels. If your A1C level is normal it will be less than 5.7%, if you have pre-diabetes it will be between 5.7% to 6.4%, if you have diabetes, it will be above 6.4%.

Prehypertension: You have prehypertension if your systolic blood pressure is from 120 to 139 OR your diastolic blood pressure is from 80 to 89. People with prehypertension are more likely to develop high blood pressure, or hypertension, and other heart problems.

Pregnant: When a female human or animal is developing a child or young in her uterus.

Premature birth: A birth that takes place more than three weeks before the baby is due. In other words, it occurs before the start of the 37th week of pregnancy. 

Premenstrual Syndrome (PMS): PMS stands for Premenstrual Syndrome. It is the physical, psychological, and emotional symptoms related to a woman's period. Some symptoms are: cramps, stress, muscle or joint pain, fatigue, acne, and mood swings. 

Presentation: The appearance or display of symptoms of a disease or illness.

Preservatives: Substances that are added to foods to prevent mold, yeast and bacteria from growing in them. Most of these substances are chemicals such as nitrites, benzoates, and sorbates that can make food last longer, but they can also be toxic to our bodies and make us sick. There are many natural preservatives such as salt, vinegar, and sugar that are not toxic, but if you eat too much of these natural preservatives this can lead to diseases such as hypertension, diabetes, and obesity.

Prevent: To stop or reduce the causes of a disease or the return of symptoms after a disease has been cured.

Preventive double mastectomy: Surgery to remove both breasts in order to lower the chance of getting breast cancer.

Primary care provider (PCP): A doctor who is responsible for all of a person's healthcare needs.

Principal Investigator: The head of the laboratory who is the research group leader.

Processed food: Food that is no longer in its natural or original state. The ways that food can be processed include: canning, freezing, refrigeration, and dehydration (drying, such as dried fruit and powdered milk). Processing foods increases their shelf life, which can reduce food waste due to rotting or spoiling. It can involve adding colors, salt or other preservatives, which can be unhealthy for you. Consider buying foods that have the least amount of processing since they are usually the healthiest for you.

Project SHARE: Project SHARE (Support for Hypertension Awareness, Reduction, and Education), is the Harlem Health Promotion Center's research study, which aims to find the best ways to lower high blood pressure in Harlem and Upper Manhattan through helping individuals change their specific behaviors that contribute to higher blood pressure.

Prostate cancer: This is a form of cancer in men that starts in the prostate gland. If untreated, the cancer may spread to other parts of the body, such as the bones. The different types of screening for prostate cancer include: digital rectal examinations, Prostate Specific Antigen (PSA) tests, and biopsies. The treatments for prostate cancer are: surgery/prostatectomy, radiation therapy, freezing/cryotherapy, drug/hormone therapy, or expectant management.

Prostate gland: Found in a man's body. It controls a man's release of urine and helps create semen

Prostate Specific Antigen (PSA) test: A test that measures the level of PSA (protein created by the cells of the prostate gland in the blood. To check PSA levels, the doctor takes blood from the patient and it is examined in a medical laboratory. The test is used to check to see if a man has prostate cancer.  If PSA levels are high, the patient should talk to his doctor to find out if follow up treatment is necessary.

Prostatectomy: A surgery to remove all or part of the prostate gland.

Proteins: Proteins are the building blocks of the body. Think of proteins as bricks, which are small, but when held together can make huge, complex structures. Small proteins work this same way to make up our organs such as skin and lungs, as well as hormones, enzymes, and the many proteins that circulate through the blood. When we think about eating protein in foods, we are eating the protein-rich muscle of animals such as fish, chicken, turkey, pork, and beef, for example. Beans, grains, seeds, nuts, and vegetables have smaller amounts of protein, but are equally nourishing. Eggs, milk and cheese are also excellent sources of protein.

Psychiatrist:  A doctor who specializes in studying and treating mental illness. He or she can prescribe medication for mental illnesses such as depression and anxiety.

Psychiatry: A field of medicine that studies and treats mental and emotional problems.

Pyschologist: A psychologist studies, treats, and assesses people’s behavior and/or minds. There are many types of psychologists. Psychologists can work on research, go into medicine, or counsel people. The work of psychologists in medicine (clinical psychologists) is similar to that of psychiatrists, but the main difference is that psychiatrists are licensed doctors and so they can prescribe medication to patients. Because of the different training they go through, psychologists and psychiatrists will treat patients’ mental health issues differently.

Psychology: The scientific study of human and animal mental states and behaviors.

Psychotherapy: Psychotherapy is also called talk therapy, counseling, or sometimes just simply “therapy.” Psychotherapy just means talking with a professional to treat your mental health problem. A provider may be a psychiatrist, psychologist, or other mental health provider. You can learn about your thoughts, behavior, and yourself. Therapy can help you deal you’re your illness and overcome challenges in your life.

Psychotic disorders:Serious mental illnesses that affect a person’s ability to think clearly and can cause them to see, hear and feel things that are not real. Sometimes, they are also afraid that bad things might happen to them.

PT: Physcial Therapy

Puberty: A phase of human development that happens when a child’s body changes into an adult body and becomes either able to give birth or father a child

Public health: A profession that focuses on preventing disease and promoting health. It includes the use of health services to improve and protect community health through sanitation, immunization, health education and preventative medicine.

Pus: A thick, whitish-yellow fluid that is often a sign of infection or foreign material in the body.

Back to Top.


Qi: Also known as ch'i. Qi is the internal energy that flows through any living thing.

Qualitative research: Involves watching people do certain things (such as seeing which food item a person chooses to buy), talking to people in groups (focus groups), interviewing people one-on-one and asking open ended questions. Its main focus is on the behaviors and opinions of a certain group on particular topic. It looks into the details of how and why something is happening.

Quantitative research: Involves taking surveys or polls. The answer can be tallied and analyzed based on a number value (such as figuring out how many volunteers finished high school). Its focuses on what is happening by gathering large amounts of data and providing statistical evidence for some new finding. This is done by using numbers, showing by how much something changes and coming up with potential reasons as to why they got these results.

Qigong: Also known as Chi gong. Techniques of body movements, breathing, and visualization with roots in Chinese philosophy, martial arts, and medicine that focuses on meditation and health and healing. 

Quinoa (pronounced “KEEN-wah”): A grain that cooks like rice and can be substituted for rice or other grains like bulgur in recipes. Quinoa originated in South America and has become very popular in recent years for people trying to avoid wheat gluten. It is considered a “complete” protein. Rice and beans (eaten together) and meats are also “complete” proteins.

Back to Top.


Racism: Treating someone unfairly because of one's race.

Radio waves: An electromagnetic wave that is used for sending signals through the air without using wires.

Range of motion: Range of motion is how far the person's joints can be moved in different directions.

Rash: Breaking out (eruption) of the skin.

Radiation therapy: Treatment that uses x-rays to kill cancer cells.

Radiologist: A doctor who specializes in creating and interpreting pictures of areas inside the body.

Raynauds disease: A disease that limits the flow of blood to extremities, such as the hands and feet. This causes the extremities to feel cold and sometimes change color. It is also associated with many other diseases such as scleroderma, frostbite, and lupus.

RD: Registered Dietitian

Receptor: A protein on or inside a cell that receives a substance and responds to it in order to produce an effect in the body. When a drug enters the body, it can attach to a receptor in order to produce its effect, whether it's lowering a person's blood pressure, reducing their pain, or whatever the drug/medication does.

Reconstructive surgery: Surgery performed to correct or repair physical abnormalities of the body.

Rectal fluid: Any liquid coming out of the butt. 

Rectum: The final portion of the colon.

Recycling: The process of reusing materials. In New York City, many items such as glass bottles, cans, cardboard, paper and more can be collected and be picked up by the city for processing, and ultimately, a new use. 

Red blood cells: Are round cells that help carry oxygen throughout the body.

Reproductive health: The physical and mental well-being of an individual's reproductive system. Good reproductive health means that a person is able to have a healthy, safe, and responsible sex life and is able to have children if, when, and how often they want to. 

Reproductive system: Also known as the genital system. It's the system of body parts (for example, the penis and testicles in males and the vulva and ovaries in females) that work together for the purpose of reproduction, or creating children.

Respiratory system: The primary function of the respiratory system is to put oxygen in the blood and remove carbon dioxide from the blood. This is done through breathing in oxygen and breathing out carbon dioxide, which helps gets oxygen to the blood. The respiratory system includes the lungs, airways, diaphragm, windpipe, throat, mouth, and nasal passages.

Retinopathy: A term used to talk about problems in a part of the eye called the retina.

Retrovirus: A type of virus that injects their genetic information, called ‘RNA', into a cell. The retrovirus family includes the AIDS virus.

Rickets: A bone-softening disease that children can get which can cause them to have soft skulls and delay their walking and crawling.

Risk factor: Something that increases a person’s chances of getting a disease.

RN: Registered Nurse

Rubella: An infectious viral disease, with symptoms like mild measles.

Back to Top.


Safe sex: Taking steps, such as using condoms, before and during sexual activities to prevent the spread of sexually transmitted diseases (STIs) and pregnancies.

Saliva: Also known as "spit"; watery secretions from glands in the mouth that moisten chewed food and begin digestion.

Salivate: To create salive; when our mouth waters.

Salmonella: It is a bacterium causing intestinal infection leading to food poisoning.

Saturated fat: Saturated fat is the most common cause of LDL (bad) cholesterol in food. Eating foods that have saturated fats raises the cholesterol in your blood. Saturated fat is mainly found in foods from animals and some plants. Foods from animals include beef, beef fat, veal, lamb, pork, lard, poultry fat, butter, cream, milk, cheeses and other dairy products made from whole and two percent milk. Foods from plants that contain saturated fat include coconut, coconut oil, palm kernel oil (often called tropical oils), and cocoa butter.

Sauté: A way of cooking food with a small amount of oil or fat. Sautéing is done in a shallow pan or griddle usually using high heat.

Scabies: A skin infection that can spread from one person to another. It is caused by a mite, which is parasite so tiny that it’s not visible.

Schizoaffective disorder: A mental illness that affects a person’s ability to tell the difference between what is real and what isn’t real and also causes mood problems such as extreme unhappiness. It is a combination of schizophrenia and depression or bipolar disorder.

Schizophrenia: A mental illness that is a specific type of psychotic disorder that affects a person’s ability to think clearly and can cause them to see, hear and feel things that are not real. They sometimes are also afraid that bad things might happen to them. It usually starts when people are in their 20’s and affects about 1 in every 100 people.

Scleroderma: An autoimmune disease that causes hardening of the skin, internally and externally, meaning inside and outside of the human body

Screen: When a doctor or healthcare provider performs a test to determine if you have a disease or health condition.

Screening: A medical procedure that tests a person for certain types of illnesses. Screening can be done using x-rays, blood tests or a physical examination by a doctor.

Scrotum: This is the skin and muscles that hold two testicles or male sex organs that produce sperm, or male reproductive cells.

Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD): A type of depression that is related to changes in seasons and occurs during a specific time each year (especially when there is less sunlight) such as the winter.

Secondhand smoke:  The smoke you breathe in from other people smoking around you. It is a combination of smoke that comes from the burning end of a cigarette, cigar or pipe and the smoke exhaled by the smoker. Secondhand smoke can be extremely bad for your health if you are exposed to a lot of it like in the case of living with a smoker who smokes indoors. It can also cause children who already have asthma to experience more frequent and severe asthma attacks.

Semen: Sticky, whitish liquid containing sperm that is made by the male’s sex organs. 

Serum ferritin test: This test measures the level of ferritin in the blood. 

Serum iron test: A test that measures how much iron is in your blood.

Sensations: Awareness (as in being aware of heat or pain) by stimulating the senses.

Senses: The process in which your brain alert you when you feel hot or pain or cold.

Sepsis: A life threatening condition caused by an infection that makes the body injure its own tissues and organs

Severe weather: Dangerous or extreme weather that causes damage to the environment, community destruction and/or loss of human life.

Serving size: The suggested amount of different food items (dairy, meat, fruits, vegetables, oil, drink) you should eat during a meal or snack. It is found on both Nutritional Labels and the Food Plate created by the United States Department of Agriculture. Often confused with portion size.

Sexism: Treating someone unfairly because of one's sex.

Sexual assault: Forcing any type of sexual contact (including unwanted and improper touching, as well as oral sex, and rape) on a person without his or her consent or forcing this sexual contact on someone who can’t give consent because of their age or a disability (physical or mental).

Sexual violation: See sexual assault

Shingles: A reoccuring of the chicken pox virus in the body, causing a painful rash.

Sickle cell disease: a serious, life-long inherited blood disease. This means that you can get it from your parents and pass it to your children, like hair color or eye color. Normal red blood cells are round and soft, but sickle cell blood cells can get c-shaped and stiff. This shape makes it hard for blood to reach parts of your body because sickle cell blood cells have a hard time moving through small blood vessels. Sickle cell disease can cause terrible times of pain and damage to many organs in your body, like your lungs, heart, and kidneys.

Skeletal system: The skeleton is a flexible, bony framework found in humans. The skeletal system gives the body its shape, protects body organs, and helps the body move.

Sleep apnea: Sleep apnea is a disorder where breathing stops for as long as 20 seconds several times during sleep. Because breathing stops, the amount of oxygen in the blood is lower. Sleep apnea can cause high blood pressure and other cardiovascular disease, memory problems, weight gain, impotency, and headaches. 

Sleep disorder: Any condition that causes sleep that makes it difficult to sleep properly or stay asleep. There are many kinds.

Smoking cessation: To quit or stop using tobacco products.

Smoothie: A drink usually made in a blender that can include a mixture of healthy foods like milk (cow’s, rice or almond), yogurt, fruit, greens like kale or spinach, and protein powder or other supplements.

Social worker: A person who is trained and certified to help people in many ways. This person promotes social change and pisitive human growth and change. Values of social justice, human rights, shared responsibility and respect for everyone are central to social work. 

Sodium: one of the minerals needed by the body in small amounts; when mixed with chloride it becomes what we know as table salt.

Somatic: Refers to cells in the human body that are able to reproduce themselves; these cells naturally have a knowledge of survival and represent the body-mind connection.

Soy milk: A drink made by soaking soybeans in water. It is highly nutritious, with a lot of protein and is one of the many substitutes for people who are lactose intolerant or do not eat dairy.

Specialists: doctors who have been trained to become an expert in a specific area of medicine.

Spine: Made up of 33 bones stacked on top of one another. This is called the "spinal column" and gives your body its main support.

Spinal cord: The main pathway for messages sent from the brain and the nervous system.

Stage 4 kidney disease: The most severe stage of the disease before dialysis must occur for survival. (Stage 5 is when dialysis is absolutely necessary) The kidney must cleanse the blood at a needed rate. When this rate slows down it is a sign that the kidneys are not working.

Starch: A natural carbohydrate found in corn, potatoes, rice, and breads. Almost all starch breaks down into sugar (mostly glucose) in the body. It is used for fuel or calories.

Statistical evidence: A type of science that deals with collecting and interpreting numerical results

Sterile: Free from all living microorganisms.

STI (Sexually Transmitted Infection): An infection caused by either a virus or bacteria that moves from one person to another usually through sexual contact. These diseases can also be spread through blood and breast milk. Some examples of STDs are syphilis, hepatitis C, and HIV. STDs can do damage to the reproductive, urinary, and immune systems in the body, if not treated.

Stethoscope: A medical instrument used to listen to lung and heart sounds. It can also be used to hear blood flow in the arteries when also using a blood pressure cuff to measure blood pressure.

Stewardship: The management and care for property or land. An example of stewardship is the combined efforts by neighbors to maintain community gardens.

Stigma:The shame or disgrace connected to a situation, event, act, quality, or person.

Stroke: A health condition that happens when there is a sudden stop in the flow of blood to the brain. It can cause paralysis or be unconscious.

Stool: Solid waste that is pushed out of the body through the rectum.

Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP): The government food assistance program that was once known as “Food Stamps.” The purpose of this program is to help people in need get healthy food from Food Stamp Centers in Manhattan.

Supplements: Supplements can come in a variety of forms such as pills, powders or liquids. Dietary supplements cover a broad range of nutrients such as vitamins, minerals and amino acids. Herbal supplements are also considered dietary supplements. If a supplement contains plants or herbs it is called a ‘botanical'.

Surgery: An operation or procedure that involves the removal, replacement, or repair of an organ, bone, or tissue that is broken, not working properly or is diseased. 

Sustainable Living: A way of life in which an individual or society as a whole uses the minimum amount of the Earth's natural resources. These changes often include transportation and the way food is grown, prepared and distributed.

Sustainability planning: An organization or group’s plans to use fewer of the Earth’s resources (like water and energy) and to make sure that as few harmful chemicals are used for things like growing food, removing pests, and cleaning and decorating our homes. Sustainability depends on three areas: 1) environmental health, 2) economic prosperity and profitability, and 3) social and physical wellbeing for all.

Swelling: Swelling is when organs, skin or other body parts become enlarged or get bigger than normal.  

Symptoms: A physical sign of something not working right in your body, especially if you are sick. Some examples include a stomachache, headache, runny nose, sneezing, cough etc.

Syphilis: A disease that you can get through sexual contact. It is caused by a bacterial infection.

Systolic blood pressure: The force against the walls of the arteries by blood when your heart beats.

Back to Top.


Taiji (t'ai chi): A form of Chinese martial art. It includes meditation and a series of circular movements to increase strength and balance.

Telemedicine: Using technology like video conferencing and computers to communicate with healthcare providers, like doctors and nurses. This can be done from distant locations like your own home, without having to travel to your healthcare provider’s office.

Tetanus: A serious bacterial disease that affects your nervous system, leading to painful muscle contractions, particularly of the jaw and neck muscles. Tetanus can make it difficult to breathe and threaten your life.

Therapeutic lifestyle changes: Healthy changes in your lifestyle. For example, eating a diet that is low in saturated fat, eating a low cholesterol diet, regular physical activity, and keeping a healthy weight.

Thermal paper receipts: Research shows that the thermal paper that receipts are printed on may contain BPA.  These include receipts from cash registers and ATM machines (often on glossy, curled paper).  The toxic chemical can easily absorb into our skin. As a precaution try to avoid extended contact and keep receipts in envelopes (not loose in your wallet or purse). 

Thigh: The part of the human leg between the hip and the knee.

Thyroid gland : A large gland in the neck that maked hormones that control growth and development through the rate of metabolism.

Tissue: Cells that are linked together. Tissues come together to make organs, like the heart.

Tofu: A substance made from condensed soy milk that is cut into blocks for sautéing or steaming. It is a common food staple in East Asian cultures.

Top-Down Approach: A process where experts (such as doctors and other health care providers), hospitals, governmental organizations (like departments of health at the local level and agencies like the Centers for Disease Control at the Federal level) are in charge of creating, organizing or directing the solutions and programs to address a disease or issue. This is the opposite of a bottom-up approach that involves people in a community who are not health professionals making choices about what they want and what would work for them.

Total iron binding capacity test: This test is used to see if we have too much or too little iron in the blood.

Toxic chemicals: A toxic substance that may be harmful to the environment and to human health if inhaled, swallowed, or absorbed through the skin. There are naturally occurring toxins (poisonous matter coming from living organisms) found in certain plants like poinsettias and even some wild mushrooms and berries. However, the toxic substances contained in most everyday household products are man-made. The opposite of toxics substances are called non-toxic substances. Non-toxic substances are safe to use, and do not harm humans and the environment.

Toxins: Chemicals that cause damage or negative outcomes to your health.

Triglycerides: These come from fats eaten in foods or made by the body from other energy sources like carbohydrates. Any calories that you eat and do not use right away become triglycerides and are sent to fat cells to be stored.

Tumor: A large number of cells that form together and cause harm to the body. They may be cancerous or non-cancerous, but you cannnot know without medical testing.

Tuskegee: In Tuskegee, Alabama from 1932-1972 a group of researchers studied 400 African Americans who were infected with syphilis. By 1940, penicillin was found to be an effective treatment for syphilis but the researchers did not give the participants the penicillin because they wanted to study the natural progression of the disease. This experiment, which is now considered unethical, is one reason many African Americans don't trust medical professionals. It is also the reason that all studies involving human research subjects must first be approved by Institutional Review Boards (IRBs) to make sure they're ethical.

Typhoid: An intestinal infection leading to extreme diarrhea and other symptoms.

Back to Top.


Ulcer: A crater-like open sore that forms on the inside lining of the stomach, small intestine or esophagus. Ulcers can be caused by a bacterial infection, by certain medications (like Aspirin or Ibuprofin), by smoking, or by your body producing too much acid.

Ultrasound: A test that uses sound waves to create pictures of the tissues and internal organs of the body.

Ultraviolet rays: Also called UV rays, they are damaging to the skin. UV radiation is invisible light from the sun. Overexposure to UV rays can cause many health problems including skin cancer, cataracts, a weakened immune system, and premature aging. Using a "broad spectrum" sunscreen can help protect against both aging and skin damage.

Under-recognize: This term means that more people have a disease, disorder, or illness than doctors actually know about.

Under-treat: This means that more people have a disease, disorder, or illness than are actually getting treated for it.

Unprocessed food: Food that has not been processed. This is the food that usually doesn't need labels or packaging. Examples include foods from a farmers market or the produce section or a supermarket such as fruits, vegetables, nuts, rice, beans, and fresh meats, poultry, and fish. Nutrition educators will promote them as the healthiest for you.

Urban planning: A career field that focuses on various planning subjects, such as land use, environmental planning, housing, and community development.

Urethra: The tube that connects the bladder to the opening of the urethra outside the body which transports and discharges urine outside the body.

Urinary flow: The amount of time or ease to release urine. Urinary flow also relates to the force of the urine stream as it is released.

Urinary system: The group of organs that create, store, and release urine.

Urinary Tract:The organs of the body that procduce, store, and release urine or "pee". These organs include the kidneys, ureters, bladder, and urethra.

Urine: This is liquid waste (pee). If you notice a change in color or how often you go, it may be a sign of a health problem like an infection or diabetes.

Urologist: A specialist with knowledge and skill about problems of the male and female urinary body parts and the male sexual body parts.

Uterus: Part of the female reproductive system where babies develop before birth. Also referred to as the womb. 

Utility conservation: Similar to energy efficiency. May involve cutting down on water, electric, heating, and cooling use in the home. 

Back to Top.


Vaccine: A vaccine is a shot that helps your immune system fight off a particular disease. A vaccine usually contains an ingredient that is similar to a particular disease. The vaccine gets the body's immune system to recognize the ingredient as foreign, destroy it, and "remember" it, so that the immune system can more easily recognize and fight it in the future.

Vagina: A canal-like area in women stretching from the uterus to the labia. 

Vaginal fluid: Any liquid coming out of the vagina. 

Vaginal sex: Sexual activity where the penis enters the vagina. 

 Vegan: A person who follows a diet that avoids the use of all animal products, including meat, dairy, and gelatin 

 Vegetarian: A diet that doesn’t include any meat or fish. 

Veins: Passageways in the body that carry blood to the heart; veins are a type of blood vessel.

Vertebra: An individual bone that surrounds and protects the spinal cord. It runs from the base of the head to bottom of the back.

Viral load: The amount of virus found in the blood.

Virus: A tiny being that attacks living cells and copies itself inside of them. Viruses cause many common human diseases, such as HIV

Vitamin D: Vitamin D is a vitamin that helps the body keep normal amounts of calcium and phosphorus in the blood and helps the body take in calcium. This helps the body make strong bones. Vitamin D is also called the "sunshine" vitamin because the body makes it after being in the sun.

Vitamins: Substances that your body needs to grow and develop normally. There are 13 vitamins the human body needs. They are vitamins A, C, D, E, K and the B vitamins (thiamine, riboflavin, niacin, pantothenic acid, biotin, vitamin B-6, vitamin B-12 and folate). You can get all of these vitamins from foods. To protect the vitamins in your food, be sure to keep food out of sunlight, wrapped, and cooked without extreme heat or large amounts of water.

Vomit: Throwing up the food from the stomach.

Vulva: The external opening of a vagina.

Back to Top.


Whole grains: Are found in foods and are essential parts of a healthy diet. They are good sources of fiber and other nutrients. The ingredients on a food label should SAY "whole grain" or whole wheat/barley/rice/etc. on it if it's a whole grain. Just because something, like rice or bread, for instance, is brown in color doesn't mean it has WHOLE grains in it.

Back to Top.


X-ray: A test that produces images of the structures inside your body-particularly your bones.

Back to Top.


Yeast: This is a microorganism that is a type of fungus. Yeast can be used in baking some breads, and fermenting wine and beer. Some types of yeast can cause  infections in people who have weak immune systems.

Yin-Yang Theory: This is a concept of Chinese philosophy and medicine that views things in relation to its whole. The yin and the yang are opposites that combine to provide a way of explaining relationships between objects.

Yoga: A form of exercise for mental and physical health that helps a person to become more peaceful through movement and meditation

Back to Top.


Back to Top.

Sign in or join now to save events.