'Know the symptoms ladies,' O'Donnell warns after heart attack
Published Tuesday, August 21, 2012 7:14PM EDT
Last Updated Tuesday, August 21, 2012 10:39PM EDT
When Rosie O’Donnell announced she suffered a heart attack last week, she urged other women not to ignore the symptoms of what can be a silent killer.
Writing about the life-changing experience on her blog, the 50-year-old comedian said she brushed off her initial symptoms -- an ache in her chest and sore arms -- as strained muscles.
O’Donnell said she waited a full day to see a cardiologist, who determined that her left anterior descending coronary artery, responsible for much of the blood flow to the heart, was 99 per cent blocked.
She had suffered a type of heart attack known as “the widow maker” and had to have a stent inserted to open up the artery.
“i am lucky to be here,” she wrote in the poem-like blog entry.
“i did not call 911…200,000 women die of heart attacks every year in the US…by some miracle i was not one of them.”
O’Donnell’s story shines a spotlight on what experts have already pointed out -- for many women, heart attack symptoms are not always obvious, leading to delayed care or, in some cases, death.
A study published in the Journal of the American Medical Association earlier this year suggested that women aren’t as likely as men to experience chest pain during a heart attack.
Other studies have also suggested that some heart-attack symptoms are different in women than men.
According to the Public Health Agency of Canada, chest pain is still the most common heart attack symptom in both sexes, but women may also experience unusual fatigue, heartburn that cannot be relieved by antacids, nausea, vomiting and anxiety.
Because these symptoms can be associated with all kinds of ailments, women often don’t seek medical attention right away, thinking that the nausea and fatigue will eventually go away on their own.
O’Donnell said she first started feeling unwell after helping an overweight woman get out of her car in a parking lot.
A few hours later, her chest hurt, her arms were sore and “everything felt bruised.”
As her condition worsened and she threw up, O’Donnell thought: “maybe this is a heart attack.”
“i googled womens heart attack symptoms, i had many of them, but really? – i thought – naaaa,” she wrote.
She said she took an aspirin anyway, remembering TV commercials about its benefits for those at risk of heart disease.
“saved by a tv commercial literally,” she wrote.
The next day, O’Donnell saw a doctor.
“know the symptoms ladies, listen to the voice inside, the one we all so easily ignore,” she warned. “CALL 911, save urself”