Not all cases of a heart attack include excruciating chest pain. In fact, some people may believe they are simply suffering from indigestion. As any type of heart attack – ‘mild’ or ‘more serious’ – is a medical emergency, take note of the warning signs you may be affected.
A ‘mild’ heart attack – medically termed Non-ST segment elevation myocardial infarction (NSTEMI) – is defined by a partial block of the blood supply to the heart.
Cardiologist Joseph Campbell, MD, reported to Cleveland Clinic: “If you were told you’ve had a mild heart attack, it probably means your heart didn’t suffer much damage and still pumps normally.”
A ‘more serious’ heart attack (ST-segment elevation myocardial infarction, STEMI) is determined when there is a long interruption to blood supply.
This is caused by a total blockage of the coronary artery, which can cause extensive damage to a large area of the heart.
“How well you fare after a heart attack depends on how quickly you act,” Dr Campbell went on.
“The sooner you get emergency care, the better the chance you will suffer less permanent damage to your heart.”
The Heart Research Institute report that when blood flow to the heart is stopped, this deprives the heart of oxygen and, consequently, the heart muscle starts to die.
“Early medical treatment is vital to ensure this damage is not permanent,” says the Heart Research Institute.
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The symptoms of a heart attack, as outlined by the NHS are:
- Chest pain – the chest can feel like it’s being pressed or squeezed by a heavy object, and pain can radiate from the chest to the jaw, neck, arms and back
- Shortness of breath
- Feeling weak or lightheaded, or both
- An overwhelming feeling of anxiety
“It’s important to know that not everyone experiences severe chest pain. The pain can often be mild and mistaken for indigestion,” said the health body.
“It’s the combination of symptoms that’s important in determining whether a person is having a heart attack and not the severity of chest pain,” it continued.
The British Heart Foundation added: “Heart attack symptoms can persist over days, or they can come on suddenly and unexpectedly.”
Help! I think I might be having a heart attack
The first thing you must do is dial 999 immediately for an ambulance, then sit down and rest.
The NHS recommends taking a 300mg of aspirin if you have one in arm’s reach and to stay calm and wait for the paramedics.
If you’re with someone who’s experiencing heart attack symptoms but they’re putting off or refusing to call an ambulance, it’s really important that you call one for them.
How is the type of heart attack recognised?
Upon arrival to hospital, you’ll usually be admitted to an acute cardiac care unit (ACCU) where you should be tested with an electrocardiogram (ECG) within 10 minutes.
Medical professionals use an electrocardiogram (ECG) to measure the electrical activity of your heart.
Every time your heart beats it produces tiny electrical impulses, which the ECG machine records onto paper, enabling your doctor to see how well your heart is functioning.
A NSTEMI (‘mild’ heart attack) won’t show any change in the ST segment on the ECG. The ST segment corresponds to the area of damage inflicted on the heart.
An ECG is painless and takes about five minutes to do.