In this article, I will explain in detail what mini heart attacks mean and I will help you understand the difference between mini heart attack, pre-heart attack, major heart attack and silent heart attack.
Mini heart attack symptoms ( also known as mild heart attack symptoms
) vs Major heart attack symptoms
First, I want to make it clear that you can’t easily distinguish between major heart attack symptoms and mini heart attack symptoms. A typical heart attack chest pain (a crushing pressure like pain in the middle of the chest with radiation to left arm) is more likely to be a major heart attack. However, not all major heart attacks happen with typical chest pain. In fact I have listed 23 symptoms besides typical chest pain that could represent a heart attack. This is true for both mini heart attacks and major heart attack symptoms. I have written a very detailed article on heart attack symptoms in general. You can click the link for reference. I am listing the same 23 symptoms here because they are also the symptoms of a mini heart attack.
In summary, typical heart attack chest pain is more likely to be a major heart attack. However, these 23 symptoms can represent either a major heart attack or a mini heart attack.
Here are the 23 mild heart attack symptoms:
- squeezing sensation in your chest
- heartburn that would not go away
- feel like indigestion
- severe nausea
- Jaw pain
- sudden palpitations
- dull chest pressure
- achy feeling in the chest
- feel like sore chest muscles
- pain in between the shoulder blades
- pain in your upper back
- pain in the left arm
- pain in the right arm
- fullness and tightening of throat
- numbness and heaviness of shoulder
- choking sensation
- feel like a lump inside the chest
- sudden shortness of breath
- feel like fire burning inside the chest
- stuttering chest discomfort
- impending sense of doom
- sudden incredible fatigue
- sudden profuse sweating
The only way to distinguish between a mini heart attack and a major heart attack when you have these symptoms is by getting tested after the fact. After you are diagnosed with a heart attack, your EKG, your blood-work and other specialized tests will evaluate the extent of damage to your heart muscles and find out if you had a mini heart attack or a major one. A major heart attack requires intervention as soon as possible. The sooner they are able to open up your arteries, the better outcome you will have. That is why it is extremely important to get to an ER as soon as you suspect a heart attack. Even when your symptoms suggest a mini heart attack, you can never know. You may be having a major heart attack despite not having the typical chest pain. If you have any of the 23 mild heart attack symptoms, you need to tell the ER nurse directly. Just say, “I think I had a heart attack.”
What does a mini heart attack feel like? How do you feel after a mild heart attack?
You may have any of the 23 mild heart attack symptoms but how you feel during the actual heart attack may differ from person to person. If you pay close attention to your symptoms, you will feel that your body goes into a stress mode during a heart attack. You may feel like you have less energy or you may feel a little dizzy or lightheaded. Some people feel anxious and worried and others feel like something isn’t right but can’t pinpoint the exact feeling.
What happens after a mild heart attack depends on the extent of injury to your heart muscles. After the acute heart attack is over, your symptoms depend on your heart muscle injury. If there is significant injury, you may feel like you are short of breath. You hay have palpitations or irregular heart rate.
If you get diagnosed and treated early for a mild heart attack, you may recover completely without any “minor heart attack after effects” and long term damage. That is why it is really important to recognize mild heart attack symptoms and go to the nearest emergency department right away.
Mini heart attack symptoms (mild heart attack symptoms
) vs pre heart attack symptoms
Pre heart attack symptoms are technically not actual heart attacks. You can view them as early warning signs of heart attack. “Heart attack” implies that there is already some permanent damage to the heart muscles. With pre heart attack symptoms, the damage is temporary. You can compare pre heart attack symptoms to transient ischemic attacks( TIAs, sometimes also called mini-stroke). TIA represents early warning signs of a stroke. Similarly, a pre heart attack represents early warning signs of a heart attack. The only difference is that pre heart attack symptoms affect your heart while mini-stroke symptoms affect your brain.
Pre heart attack causes:
Causes of pre-heart attack and causes of mini-strokes are similar. Both pre-heart attack and mini-stroke are caused by temporary obstruction of blood flow to these organs: the heart in pre-heart attacks and the brain in mini-strokes. Pre heart attack symptoms are warning signs of a heart attack. Pre heart attack symptoms happen when you have narrowed but not completely blocked arteries in your heart. These arteries supply blood to your heart muscles. When part of your heart muscle doesn’t get enough blood, you have heart attack symptoms.
Mini heart attack symptoms: How long does a heart attack last?
The major difference between a pre heart attack and a mini heart attack is how long the heart attack symptoms last. Pre heart attack symptoms usually last for less than five minutes. Mini heart attack symptoms usually last for more than 10 minutes. With pre heart attack symptoms, blood flow is restored within that time frame. If it does not, it progresses into mini heart attack ,or sometimes into major heart attack. Sometimes a mini heart attack symptoms may last for hours.
In medical terms, pre heart attack is called Angina. There are 2 types of angina: stable angina and unstable angina. In pre heart attack symptoms from stable angina, there is a fixed narrowing of the blood vessel supplying blood to the heart muscles. Stable angina predictably happens with exertion and goes away promptly with rest. In pre heart attack symptoms from unstable angina, there is a new dynamic obstruction. It means that something new is happening inside one of your coronary arteries (arteries that supply blood to your heart muscles). It could be the rupture of a plaque, or it could be a small blood clot or something similar. Pre heart attack symptoms from unstable angina may be unpredictable. Symptoms may be provoked or unprovoked by activity. They may ease off and get worse. At the onset of unstable angina, the outcome is uncertain. If the cause of the obstruction passes away and the blood flow is restored, you will have pre heart attack symptoms. If the cause of the obstruction persists, you will go on to have a mini heart attack or even a major heart attack.
Jaw pain in heart attack
One of the most commonly misdiagnosed symptoms of a heart attack is jaw pain. Heart attack symptoms may be ignored if the person having the symptoms is perceived to be at a lower risk, especially when the presenting symptom is something as atypical as jaw pain. Heart attack symptoms in women over 40 and less than 50 may be dismissed more than others because they are perceived as low risk, even by many doctors. However the actual incidence of heart attack in women that age is only slightly lower than that of men. When a woman that age registers her chief complaint as “lower jaw pain right side”, they may dismiss that as a possible dental problem. You need describe your jaw pain in as much detail as you can if you don’t want them to dismiss it.
- Was your jaw pain unprovoked?
- Did your Jaw pain radiate to your arm or your chest?
- Did you jaw pain start suddenly out of nowhere?
- Was your jaw pain brought on by running or climbing stairs?
- Did you have jaw pain with your prior heart attack?
- When you answer those questions in detail, you may raise some red flags that will make them think about a possible heart attack.
Jaw pain that is predictably worse with running or walking and better with rest could be stable angina type of pre heart attack symptom. Jaw pain that is unpredictable and unprovoked may be a sign of unstable angina or mini heart attack or even a major heart attack.
Mild heart attack hospital stay
Unlike a major heart attack (also called ST elevation MI or STEMI), you can’t diagnose a mild heart attack just based on your EKG. Your EKG may show some signs you’ve had a heart attack in the past but it may not have specific findings to definitely say whether you are having a mild heart attack at the present time. If your EKG shows previous heart attack, the suspicion for current heart attack goes higher.
Once your doctors suspect a minor heart attack, they will admit you to the hospital with close monitoring of your heart rate and your blood pressure. There are certain blood tests that detect signs of heart muscle damage. These tests are used as indicators to diagnose mild heart attacks. These indicators of heart attacks are checked every few hours during your hospital stay to monitor the progression of your heart injury.
Your blood pressure during heart attack is usually high as your body goes into a stress mode. However, chest pain with normal blood pressure does not exclude mini heart attack. There is no “usual heart attack blood pressure range”; heart attack blood pressure numbers fluctuate widely.
Similarly, you may have high or low pulse rate during heart attack. During your hospital stay for a mini heart attack, you will be hooked up to a heart monitor so that they can monitor your heart rate and rhythm continuously. Any abnormal heart rhythm may need urgent intervention. You will be started on medications to prevent the progression of the mini heart attack. You will eventually get a cardiac catheterization to evaluate and open your blocked artery.
Heart attack recovery timeline: How do you feel after a heart attack?
Duo to advances in interventional cardiology, rapid assessment and treatment of mini heart attack is possible. As a result, many patients with mini heart attacks have excellent outcome. However, it does take some time for the patients to feel normal.
Right after a mini heart attack treatment, patients may feel weak and tired. They may feel like they have less energy than they used to. Some patients may feel short of breath and winded with activity. That is why it is important to start rehab as soon as patients can tolerate.
Ideally, recovery plan is started at the time of the mild heart attack hospital stay. Initially, the recovery efforts are focused on education. Understanding the type and extent of heart damage, knowing the medications that need to be taken long term, and learning to modify lifestyle to prevent another heart attack are very important things to discuss right after a mini heart attack.
After discharge, it may take 2 to 4 weeks for you to feel completely back to normal after a mini heart attack. You may feel depressed, fearful, angry, anxious and frustrated after a mini heart attack. If these feelings interfere with your recovery process, you need to call your doctor. Otherwise, you just need to work on things you can do to recover from this heart attack and prevent another heart attack in the future.
After the first few weeks, it is important to start a formal cardiac rehab and exercise program to maintain progress and recovery.
Silent heart attack
Silent heart attack implies that you had a heart attack without even noticing the symptoms. Symptoms of a silent heart attack are not always completely silent. Sometimes, silent heart attack happens because you ignore one or more of the symptoms in the list of 23 symptoms of heart attack.
Silent heart attack prognosis is usually similar to the prognosis of mini heart attack. However, sometimes major heart attack may also present as silent heart attack. Diabetes increases the risks of having a silent heart attack.
Silent heart attack treatment is the same as mini heart attack treatment unless you have a major heart attack presenting as a silent heart attack. I have written a detailed article on silent heart attack. If you want more information, you can click on that link.