TV personality Rosie O’Donnell revealed this week that she suffered a heart attack last week. She told fans she didn’t realize she was having a heart attack because the symptoms were not the ‘classic’ ones most people are familiar with. She said her chest ached, her arms were sore, and her whole body felt bruised. She immediately took an aspirin and after looking up her symptoms on line, she scheduled an appointment with a cardiologist, who confirmed she had suffered a heart attack. O’Donnell is now asking women to know the unique symptoms of a female heart attack, and to call 911 as soon as they occur; not wait until the next day like she did.
“The symptoms of heart attack can differ between men and women,” said Iowa Department of Public Health (IDPH) Heart Disease and Stroke Prevention program coordinator Terry Meek. “A recent survey by the American Heart Association found only half of women indicated they would call 911 if they thought they were having a heart attack and few were aware of the most common heart attack symptoms.
The first step toward surviving a heart attack is learning to recognize the symptoms. The most common signs of heart attack in both women and men are:
- Unusually heavy pressure on the chest, like there’s a ton of weight on you.
- Sharp upper body pain in the neck, back, and jaw. This is a more common symptom for women than for men.
- Severe shortness of breath.
- Unexplained or excessive sweating (or for women, breaking out in a cold sweat, and you know it’s not menopause).
- Unusual or explained tiredness.
- Unfamiliar dizziness or light-headedness.
- Unexplained nausea or vomiting. Women are twice as likely as men to experience these symptoms during a heart attack.
If you or someone you know experiences these symptoms for more than five minutes, call 9-1-1 for emergency care. Even if the symptoms go away in less than five minutes, call your health care provider right away. It could be a sign that a heart attack is coming soon.
For more information on the Make the Call, Don’t Miss a Beat campaign, visit www.womenshealth.gov/heartattack. For information on the IDPH Heart Disease and Stroke Prevention program, visit www.idph.state.ia.us/hpcdp/hdsp_home.asp.