What is a Mild Heart Attack?

Instructor: Artem Cheprasov

Artem has a doctor of veterinary medicine degree.

Is it possible to have a mild heart attack? How is that different from a massive heart attack? This lesson goes over this, and discusses how one of these terms is often used inappropriately.

The Lesser of Two Evils

Is there such a thing as one heart attack being somehow better than another? Well, we can all agree that any heart attack is a really bad thing. However, there is always a lesser of two evils. The same goes for heart attacks. Some of them thankfully cause minimal damage, while others results in death. So yes, some are, in a manner of speaking, better than others in that regard.

Let's define what a heart attack is and what distinguishes a mild heart attack vs. a massive one.

Heart Attacks Defined

A heart attack, properly called a myocardial infarction, is a condition that results in the damage to and death of a section of heart muscle as a result of prolonged oxygen deprivation. Now, your heart muscle doesn't have lungs. So they're not being deprived of air.

It's that the heart muscle is supplied by blood vessels called arteries. Arteries carry oxygen-rich blood all over the body, including to the heart itself. If one or more of those arteries supplying the heart muscle with blood is blocked for any reason, be it due to plaque (fatty) buildup, a blood clot, or even a blood vessel spasm (temporary contraction), then a segment of heart muscle is starved of oxygen. This damages that section of heart muscle and eventually causes that segment to die, irreversibly so.

Mild vs. Massive Heart Attacks

You now know enough to understand the difference between a mild heart attack and a massive one. A mild heart attack is like the closure of a minor road. It's not going to affect a lot of people. Like the closure of a small road, the blockage of a small arterial branch will only affect a small part of the heart muscle. This means only a small amount of permanent damage will occur.

Similarly, if the closure of even a large road is very quick, it's not going to affect too many people either. Therefore, if the closure of an artery in the heart is only brief, minimal permanent damage will occur, even to a large section of heart muscle. That's a mild heart attack.

On the other hand, a massive heart attack is like the permanent closure of a large road. It's going to cause mayhem on the streets. This is like the long-term blockage of a large artery supplying the heart muscle, it's going to cause damage and death to a large section of the heart muscle. A massive heart attack is more likely to cause certain problems when compared to a minor heart attack, including:

  • Potentially fatal arrhythmias, or irregular rhythms of the heartbeat
  • Heart failure
  • Shock, the inappropriate supply of oxygenated blood all over the body
  • Cardiac arrest, when the heart stops beating and pumping blood
  • Death

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