A Heart Attack Glossary

A heart attack glossary ekgIf you or a loved one has had a heart attack, you may find yourself in a situation where different terms and acronyms are thrown around without ever being fully explained.

A diagnosis of heart attack is distressing enough; there is no need to add confusion to the anxiety you may already feel.

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

Heart Attack

A heart attack occurs when blockages occur in the arteries that carry blood to the heart. Blockages can occur for a variety of reasons, including blot clots or narrowing of the arteries due to plaque.

Whatever the reason, the blockage damages the muscle of the heart. The severity of the damage depends on a variety of factors, including the amount of blockage and how quickly medical intervention can be implemented.

Needless to say, a heart attack is a medical emergency, and the sooner medical intervention can be implemented, the better.

Myocardial Infarction

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

Cardiac Arrest

Cardiac arrest refers to a condition in which the heart suddenly stops working. It is not
the same as a heart attack. A heart attack occurs 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 are linked, however: having had a heart attack is a risk factor for cardiac arrest.

Coronary Artery Disease

Coronary artery disease is a medical condition in which the arteries to the heart — the “coronary” arteries — are at least partially blocked. It is an umbrella term which includes
a variety of other conditions, including heart attack.


A STEMI is the “classic” heart attack. STEMIs account for 70% of all heart attacks.

The term STEMI stands for ST-segment Elevation Myocardial Infarction.

The “ST-segment” is the section of an electrocardiogram (EKG) that records the interval between heartbeats. This interval is normally reflected on an EKG as a basically flat line.
If it is not flat, but 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 they can be considered less “dangerous” than STEMI heart attacks, NSTEMIs still require immediate medical treatment. 30% of all heart attacks are NSTEMIs.

Whatever the type of heart attack, once medical intervention has taken place, the heart will have been stabilized.

However, that is not the same as recovery. An extended period of rehabilitation is recommended to complete recovery — and reduce the risks of another heart attack
or of cardiac arrest.

At Atlantic Coast Healthcare and Rehabilitation Center, in Lakewood, NJ, we are experts
in the multidisciplinary art and science of cardiac rehabilitation. Our doctors, nurses, therapists, counselors, dietitians, and nutritionists work together with the patient’s personal doctor to tailor a plan that will return them to their best possible health.

Read our reviews on senioradvisor.com, caring.com, and wellness.com to hear what people have to say about our cardiac rehab program.

Or better yet, find out for yourself: Contact us by calling 732-364-7100, or by clicking here.

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