6 Terms to Know about Heart Attacks

Heart Attack TermsIf you or a loved one has had a heart attack, you may find yourself in a new world filled with strange words and unusual acronyms. Dealing with the aftermath of a heart attack is difficult enough; there is no need to add confusion to the mix.

Here is a brief glossary of the essential terms you are likely to encounter if someone in your life has a heart attack.

1. Heart Attack

Heart attacks occur when blockages in the arteries impede blood from getting to the heart, damaging the heart muscle. The amount of damage depends on many factors, including the degree of blockage and how quickly medical intervention was  implemented.

2. Myocardial Infarction

Myocardial infarction is the medical term for heart attack. The two terms are interchangeable.

3. Cardiac Arrest

Cardiac arrest is not the same as a heart attack. Cardiac arrest refers to a condition in which the heart suddenly stops working. While heart attacks occur when arteries to the heart are blocked; cardiac arrest occurs when the electrical signals that stimulate the heart to pump blood are disrupted.

The two conditions may not be the same, but they are linked; having had a heart attack is a risk factor for cardiac arrest.

4. Coronary Artery Disease

Coronary artery disease (CAD) is a medical condition in which the arteries of the heart — the “coronary” arteries — are at least partially blocked. CAD can cause a variety of other conditions, including heart attack.


A STEMI is the “classic” heart attack. The term STEMI stands for ST-segment elevation myocardial infarction.

The ST-segment is the section of an electrocardiogram (ECG) that records the interval between heartbeats. This interval is normally reflected on an ECG as flat. If it is elevated, the patient has a “STEMI.”

STEMIs are the most severe type of heart attack, and need immediate treatment.


During an NSTEMI heart attack, the ST-segment remains flat. While NSTEMIs can be considered less “dangerous” than STEMIs, they still need immediate medical treatment. Slightly less than one-third  of heart attacks are NSTEMIs.

Once medical intervention has taken place, the heart will have been stabilized; however, an extended period of rehabilitation is recommended to complete recovery and reduce the risks of another heart attack.

At Laurel Bay Health and Rehabilitation Center, in the scenic beach town of Keansburg, NJ, we designed a short-term rehabilitation program whose goal is to get our patients back to their optimal level of functioning and independence as quickly as possible after hospitalization. We provide a tailored program of physical, occupational and speech therapy, as well as all types of specialized care under one roof.

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