3 Surprising ‘Mini Heart Attack’ Symptoms Most People Miss

By | March 20, 2024

Woman experiences signs of a mini heart attack

In movies and on television, heart attacks are depicted as dramatic, heartbreaking events. Although they sometimes look like this in real life, it is possible to have a heart attack without even realizing it.

Although milder heart attacks are often missed, cardiologists say they are harmful to health and it is still important to seek immediate medical attention. Therefore, it is important to know their symptoms and signs. Keep reading for everything you need to know about ‘mini heart attacks’, including how they affect health, how to know if you’re having an attack, and how they’re treated.

Related: This is the early heart attack symptom that cardiologists say is most often missed

What are ‘mini heart attacks’?

Dr. Laxmi Mehta, MD, a cardiologist and clinical professor of internal medicine at The Ohio State University Wexner Medical Center, explains that the technical term for a “mini heart attack” is a silent myocardial infarction. Sometimes they are also called silent heart attacks.

Dr. Mehta explains that ‘mini heart attacks’ can be just as deadly as regular heart attacks. She says the difference between the two is that “mini heart attacks” have minimal symptoms or even no symptoms at all. “’Mini heart attacks’ are more common than you might think. Of the estimated 805,000 heart attacks per year in the U.S., 170,000 are expected to be silent heart attacks, according to statistics from the American Heart Association,” said Dr. Mehta.

Related: 7 Surprising Signs of Heart Problems in Women That You Should Never Ignore

Cardiologist Dr. Robert Segal, MD, the founder of Manhattan Cardiology and co-founder of LabFinder, says that when someone experiences a “mini heart attack,” their heart doesn’t get enough blood for a period of time. “The heart may not get enough oxygen-rich blood, and the heart muscle may become weak and not pump as well,” he explains.

Both doctors say “mini heart attacks” should be taken seriously because the heart not getting enough blood can be life-threatening and can also increase the risk of a major heart attack in the future.

What are the symptoms of a ‘mini heart attack’?

Because “mini heart attacks” don’t cause dramatic symptoms, you may wonder how to know if and when an attack is occurring. Both cardiologists say there are symptoms to be aware of, although they are milder than the symptoms of a major heart attack.

“Some signs [of a ‘mini heart attack’] are chest pain, loss of breath, sweating or feeling sick,” says Dr. Segal. There are also more surprising signs that both doctors say people often miss, which are listed below:

Three surprising signs of a ‘mini heart attack’, according to cardiologists

1. Discomfort in parts of the body other than the chest

Dr. Segal explains that pain or discomfort in areas such as the jaw, neck, back, or arms is a sign of a “mini heart attack” that many people miss. “The pain may not always feel like chest pain from a heart attack,” he says.

Related: If you want to lower your risk of heart attack, there’s one habit you should ditch as soon as possible

2. Indigestion

Both cardiologists say a “mini heart attack” is often mistaken for indigestion. You may feel a heaviness in your chest similar to heartburn. Especially if the pain lasts for more than 15 minutes, this could be the beginning of a heart attack.

3. Prolonged fatigue

According to both doctors, unexplained fatigue can also be a sign of a ‘mini heart attack’, especially if it is excessive and prolonged.

Dr. Mehta says it’s important to always see a healthcare provider if you experience anything unusual, and especially if you experience any of the symptoms described above. “It’s important to know your body and listen to your body when something feels different or ‘not right’. Don’t be afraid to make an appointment with your doctor and tell him or her that you want to work on controlling your cardiovascular risk. If you think you are having a heart attack, or if you are not sure if you are, call 911,” she says.

She adds that silent heart attacks can increase the risk of heart failure and stroke, so it’s important to seek immediate medical care if you think you may have had a silent heart attack.

“[If you think you’re having a ‘mini heart attack’ you should first stop what you’re doing and lie down or sit down. After that, you should either call 911 or have someone close do it for you,” Dr. Segal says, adding to Dr. Mehta’s advice.

In terms of how a “mini heart attack” is treated, Dr. Mehta says that, typically, a doctor will do an imaging test such as an electrocardiogram or cardiac MRI to confirm that what happened was, in fact, a heart attack. “After that, your physician will determine the next steps, including a possible heart catheterization,” she says.

“Mini heart attacks” may not be as sensational as regular heart attacks, but they still need to be taken seriously. Now that you know the signs, you’ll know how to recognize one if it ever happens. If there is ever a time when you aren’t sure if you are having a “mini heart attack” or not, seek medical care immediately. After all, it’s better safe than sorry.

Next up, here is more information on what a heart attack feels like.

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