Talk show host and actress Rosie O’Donnell helped raise awareness of women’s heart disease risk yesterday by posting on her blog news of her recent heart attack:
“maybe this is a heart attack … i googled womens heart attack symptoms … i had many of them … but really? – i thought – naaaa”
It turned out she had a blockage that could have been fatal. Her story is a cautionary tale, as O’Donnell admits she did not follow a couple of suggestions she found on an internet search. If you suspect you are having a heart attack, you should:
1. Call 911
2. Chew an aspirin
3. Elevate your feet
4. Wait for help to arrive. Do not drive.
According to O’Donnell, while she did take an aspirin, she did not call 911 and instead went to her doctor the next day. She posted:
“i did not call 911 … 50% of women having heart attacks never call 911 … 200,000 women die of heart attacks … every year in the US”
It’s true. Heart disease is the leading killer of women in the United States and it is estimated that almost 1 in 2 women will eventually die of heart disease or stroke. Heart disease is mostly preventable, so understanding these serious health threats can make a life-saving difference.
According to Jennifer Lawton, MD, cardiac surgeon at the Washington University and Barnes-Jewish Heart & Vascular Center, “Women are more likely to have atypical symptoms of a heart attack than men. Those could include something like heartburn or burning in the upper abdomen, fatigue, difficulty breathing, even nausea. Unfortunately, there are a lot of people who don’t have any symptoms before their first heart attack.”
Typical heart attack symptoms in men may include crushing chest pain, tightness, or discomfort; pain may radiate to the arms, back, jaw, and neck. But women often experience only shortness of breath, lightheadedness or dizziness, or vague pain somewhere in the upper abdomen, arm, or neck. It is believed that women may have different heart attack symptoms because different coronary arteries (the arteries in the heart which when blocked, cause a heart attack) are blocked. In women, blockage may occur in smaller coronary arteries as opposed to the main arteries, where blockage often begins in men.
She also says women need to know the risk factors they can control:
- Physical inactivity
- Obesity, overweight
- High blood pressure
- Cholesterol levels
Overall, O’Donnell summed it up best by posting:
“know the symptoms ladies … listen to the voice inside … the one we all so easily ignore … CALL 911.”
For more about women and heart disease, visit our website here or watch this video: