September 03, 2020

Can You Have a Mild Heart Attack?

You can have a mild heart attack and may not even be aware that it’s happening. There are two types of “minor” heart attacks: 

  • Non-ST Elevation myocardial infarction (NSTEMI).  This type of heart attack occurs when blood flow through one of the major coronary arteries is partially blocked, limiting the supply of oxygenated blood to the heart muscle. This kind of heart attack doesn’t damage the heart severely.
  • Silent Myocardial Infarction (SMI). Also called a “silent heart attack”, an SMI has symptoms that are so mild and brief that you may not even know you’re having a heart attack.

These less severe heart attacks are also referred to as “mild heart attacks”, “minor heart attacks”, or “mini heart attacks”.

What Does a Mini Heart Attack Feel Like?

The symptoms described below are present in both NSTEMI and SMI heart attacks, though they’ll be slightly more present in NSTEMIs. SMI symptoms are often mild and brief. Seek medical attention if you experience one or more of the following symptoms:

  • Discomfort in the center of your chest that lasts several minutes or goes away and comes back. It can feel like uncomfortable pressure, squeezing, or pain.
  • Discomfort in other upper-body areas, such as one or both arms, the neck, the back, the jaw, or the stomach
  • Shortness of breath before or during the chest discomfort
  • Cold sweat
  • Nausea
  • Lightheadedness

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Does a Mild Heart Attack Cause Damage to the Heart?

Mild heart attacks affect a small portion of the heart and don’t cause significant permanent damage. But that doesn’t mean they shouldn’t be taken seriously. Mild heart attacks can lead to life-threatening problems that can affect the remainder of your life, including:

  • Arrhythmia
  • Heart failure
  • Higher risk of another heart attack

Does a Mild Heart Attack Require Hospitalization?

Depending on the severity of your mild heart attack, you may not be treated until months later. If you do call 911, or visit a doctor, your treatment will likely include one or more of the following:

  • Aspirin, nitroglycerin and/or oxygen therapy immediately to remove chest pain and improve blood flow
  • Clot busters
  • Blood pressure medications
  • Blood thinners
  • Statins

Not all heart attacks require hospitalization, though some (particularly NSTEMIs) will require an overnight stay in the hospital. 

Life After a Mild Heart Attack

Many people who suffer mild heart attacks will recover fully and return to a normal life, though they’ll have to monitor their heart health more closely to avoid having another, more severe heart attack. Doctors usually recommend certain lifestyle changes, including:

  • Increasing to regular exercise
  • Maintaining a healthy weight
  • Monitoring cholesterol
  • Quitting the use of tobacco products
  • Eating a healthy diet of fruits, vegetables, whole grains, fatty fish, and nuts
  • Implementing stress management, such as yoga and meditation

Learn More About Mild Heart Attacks with Baptist Health

Though mild heart attacks may not cause severe damage to the heart immediately, they should be taken seriously. If you’d like to understand your risk for heart attacks and heart disease, take a Health Risk Assessment today to learn more. 

Learn More.