What Is a Mini Heart Attack?
A heart attack (myocardial infarction, or MI) occurs when one of the arteries that supply blood to the heart (coronary arteries) becomes blocked and the part of the heart that normally gets blood from that artery is damaged. The longer an artery is blocked, the bigger the heart attack and the more damage that can occur.
A mini heart attack, also called a mild heart attack or a non-ST elevation myocardial infarction (NSTEMI), is when there is only partial blockage of the artery, the symptoms don’t last as long as a regular heart attack, and the heart may only suffer minimal damage.
What Are Symptoms of a Mini Heart Attack?
A heart attack, even a mini heart attack, is a medical emergency. If you have any symptoms of a heart attack, call 9-1-1 right away and get to a hospital’s emergency department. Do not drive to the hospital on your own.
Symptoms of a mini heart attack are similar to a regular heart attack but last for a shorter time and include:
- Pain, pressure, tightness, or discomfort in the chest
- Pain, tingling, squeezing, or discomfort in other parts of the upper body, including the arms, back, neck, jaw, or stomach
- Shortness of breath
- Belching (burping)
- Cold, clammy skin
- Fast or uneven heartbeat
In addition to the above symptoms, women may also experience:
- Upper abdominal pain
- Extreme fatigue or weakness
What Causes a Mini Heart Attack?
Heart attacks occur when an artery that supplies blood to the heart becomes blocked and the part of the heart that normally gets blood from that artery is damaged.
This blockage usually occurs due to a condition called coronary heart disease or coronary artery disease. In coronary heart disease, plaques (fatty deposits) form on the walls of the coronary arteries, which are the arteries that feed the heart. These plaques can break open and cause blood clots, which can block off the artery and prevent blood from reaching parts of the heart muscle.
Risk factors for coronary heart disease include:
- High blood pressure (hypertension)
- Poor diet
- Sedentary lifestyle
How Is a Mini Heart Attack Diagnosed?
Heart attacks are diagnosed with the following tests:
- Electrocardiogram (ECG or EKG)
- Echocardiogram (Echo)
- Chest X-ray
- Cardiac computed tomography (CT) scan
- Positron emission tomography (PET)
- Magnetic resonance imaging (MRI)
- Single photon emission computed tomography (SPECT)
- Exercise stress test
- Holter monitor
- Radionuclide ventriculography or radionuclide angiography (MUGA Scan)
- Myocardial perfusion imaging (MPI) test
- Cardiac catheterization (cardiac cath)
- Tilt-table test
- Transesophageal echocardiography (TEE)
- Blood tests
- C-reactive protein (CRP)
- Troponin T
- Brain natriuretic peptide (BNP)
What Is the Treatment for a Mini Heart Attack?
Treatment for a mini heart attack at the hospital may include:
- Pain medications, including morphine
- Medications to help you relax
- Clot-dissolving drugs (thrombolysis)
- Surgical procedures
- Balloon angioplasty (PCI)
- Coronary artery bypass graft (CABG) You will likely stay in the hospital for 3 to 5 days, unless your heart attack led to other problems that need treatment.
What Are Complications of a Mini Heart Attack?
Complications of a mini heart attack include:
- Heart attack
- Heart failure
- Cardiogenic shock
- Ventricular free wall rupture
- Ventricular septal defect (VSD)
- Mitral valve chordae tendinae rupture
- Inflammation of the lining of the heart (pericarditis)
- Irregular heartbeats (arrhythmia)
How Do You Prevent a Mini Heart Attack?
The best way to prevent a mini heart attack is with lifestyle modifications that can prevent heart disease, such as:
- Heart healthy diet
- Not smoking
- Regular exercise
- Maintain a healthy weight
- Practice stress reduction techniques such as deep breathing, meditation, and yoga
- Keep cholesterol in check
- Manage high blood pressure
- Manage diabetes
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