Mini Heart Attack Symptoms

  • 1st Revision: Aastha Dahra Malik[Linkedin]
  • 2nd Revision: Shagun Dhaliwal
  • 3rd Revision: Kaamya Mehta[Linkedin]

What is a mini heart attack (Silent heart attack)?

Did you know that around 1.4 million people in the UK today have survived a heart attack, and that almost half of them were mini heart attacks that went by unnoticed? Although less severe than a full heart attack, a mini heart attack can be seen as a clear warning sign that reminds us to take action to better our health.  

A mini heart attack, also known as a silent heart attack or silent myocardial infarction, is commonly described as a less intense and shorter heart attack with smaller consequences. They account for about 45% of heart attacks,and studies have shown that they are five times more likely in men than women.² Due to its milder symptoms and the lack of general awareness of the condition, people often ignore mini heart attacks. Doing so may lead to issues such as ignorance of their higher risk of heart disease, and subsequently missing out on treatment that could prevent further health complications. For this reason, it is important to be aware of mini heart attack signs, risks, treatments, ways of prevention, and to know when to seek advice from a professional. This article will provide all this information, allowing you to keep yourself healthy and safe from this silent intruder.


To understand the causes of a mini heart attack, it is helpful to first consider the causes of the typical heart attack. The condition occurs after a blockage to one or more of the vessels that carry blood to the heart (for example, the coronary artery), which limits or fully prevents blood from reaching the heart in certain areas.¹

Such blockages commonly exist due to a gradual build-up of fatty deposits called atheroma (also known as plaque) on the coronary artery wall, which narrows or fully blocks the artery. After this atheroma breaks off, a blood clot is formed where your body is trying to repair the damage to the artery wall.³

This may be very dangerous, as when this blockage exists for long enough, the heart tissue will not receive the oxygen that it requires to continue living. This leads to parts of the heart ‘dying’, also known as necrosis, which leads to scars on the heart tissue. If the scars are serious enough, they may deregulate the way the heart beats and pumps blood to the rest of your body due to the scar changing the electrical signals which control the heart's action.⁴

The causes of mini heart attacks are very similar to that of a regular heart attack, with their difference being their severity. Heart attacks are typically subcategorized into their severity – from mild to massive – and have varying consequences. Mini heart attacks are considered mild, meaning that they affect a smaller part of the heart muscle, limit the blood flow only slightly or for a short time, and typically do not cause many lasting effects on the heart.¹ Studies have shown that they do potentially leave lasting scars on the heart, although this is not always the case, and the scars are likely to be very moderate.²

Even though mini heart attacks may leave no permanent damage, they should still be taken seriously and seen as a hint of an increased risk of future heart attacks. This can help the affected person take action and significantly reduce the risk of heart issues in the future.

Signs and symptoms 

Signs of a mini heart attack commonly pass by unnoticed as their severity is much smaller than that of a typical heart attack. Symptoms often get confused with regular discomforts, such as heartburn or a strained muscle, and are very brief.² However here are some symptoms you should stay on the lookout for. These include:

  • Mild discomfort in the center of the chest (such as a feeling of pressure or squeezing lasting several minutes and may come and go)
  • Mild pain in the throat or chest (may be confused with heartburn)
  • Fatigue
  • Shortness of breath
  • Discomfort in the stomach, arms, upper back, jaw, and neck
  • Cold sweats, feeling dizzy and/or nauseous

Duration of a silent heart attack

Symptoms typically last several minutes and may come and go.¹ Regular heart attacks may begin with similar symptoms but last longer and tend to become more intense. Please seek medical attention if you believe you are experiencing any kind of heart attack.

How does the silent heart attack affect the body?

A study published by the Journal of the American Medical Association observed the hearts of a group of almost 2,000 individuals from various ethnic backgrounds and in the age range 45-84 years who had no heart disease diagnosed. Ten years later, the participant's hearts were re-investigated, and 8% of the study group had scarring which was evidence of a heart attack. Of this 8% of participants, 80% were unaware of having experienced a heart attack, which allowed us to interpret their experience as a silent heart attack.5

This study proved that mini heart attacks can leave lasting scars on the heart. Since this condition often goes by unnoticed, it is typically left untreated, leaving patients’ hearts slightly damaged. Affected people are at a higher risk of experiencing a more severe heart attack in the future.

Risk factors 

  • Older age
  • Being overweight
  • Have diabetes, high blood pressure and/or high cholesterol
  • Smoking
  • Inactive lifestyle
  • Unhealthy lifestyle
  • Experiencing high levels of stress


Mini heart attacks can be detected using:

  • An electrocardiogram (EKG) or echocardiogram can show heart scarring and damage
  • Blood tests for the detection of a molecule that is released by injured heart cells 


After diagnosis, alongside your doctor, you will find your main risk factors and create a treatment strategy to reduce further heart health complications. These strategies may include:

  • Taking heart medication
  • Regular exercise routines
  • Healthier food alternatives
  • Maintaining a healthy weight
  • Monitoring low-density lipoprotein cholesterol levels and adjusting diet accordingly
  • Quitting smoking
  • Implementing stress management techniques
  • If further heart issues are found, medical devices such as pacemakers may be found necessary

Prevention and Self-care

The greatest way in which you can help prevent a mini heart attack is through all the little choices you make each day. Here are some self-care ideas for the prevention of conditions such as mini heart attacks:

  • Choose healthier snacks throughout the day (unsalted nuts, popcorn, smoothies). 
  • Lead a more active lifestyle (walk instead of driving, use stairs instead of the lift, do some simple exercises throughout the day).
  • Reduce daily stress (perhaps reconsider your priorities and what aspects of your life you could simplify).

When to seek medical advice

Please seek medical attention from your doctor or a health professional if you suspect that you have experienced a mini or severe heart attack.


Mini heart attacks are very common and, although their symptoms may be mild, they can act as a warning sign to take action and take responsibility for your health. The Klarity App can be a great tool to understand and navigate your health, as well as to receive lifestyle recommendations and find out more about how to stay healthy and feel like your best self!


  1. What does a mini heart attack feel like? [Internet]. Available from:
  2. The danger of “silent” heart attacks [Internet]. Harvard Health. 2020 . Available from:
  3. Heart attack [Internet]. British Heart Foundation. . Available from:
  4. Complications of a heart attack [Internet]. . Available from:
  5. Leonard J. If a heart attack is left untreated: Symptoms, risks, and more [Internet]. 2021 . Available from:
This content is purely informational and isn’t medical guidance. It shouldn’t replace professional medical counsel. Always consult your physician regarding treatment risks and benefits. See our editorial standards for more details.

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Maja Mierzwinska

Bachelor of Engineering - BE, Bioengineering and Biomedical Engineering, University of Glasgow, Scotland

Maja is a math and physics tutor in a tutoring pilot run by Glasgow City Council and the University of Glasgow.

She is also an events assistant that ensures security, sufficient sanitation, social distancing, support to the public with queries, and first aid needs.

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