So every menopausal women needs to pause today and think about Rosie O’Donnell. The brash comedian came forward in a blog post that shares that she suffered a heart attack recently.
O’Donnell, 50, said that her body hurt and her chest ached. Both arms were sore and everything felt the day. She thought she had pulled or strained a muscle, but continued with her day, even though the pain persisted. She became nauseous, clammy and hot, and eventually threw up.
After Googling the symptoms of a heart attack, O’Donnell took an aspirin. She didn’t call 911, but went the next day to ta cardiologist. The doctor did an EKG and sent her to the hospital where a stent was put into place. The medical team found that one of O’Donnell’s arteries was 99 percent blocked.
And yes, it could have been me (and you) in place of Rosie. Livestrong.com notes that the American Academy of Family Physicians reported that heart attacks are the leading cause of death in women who are over 65 years of age.
Women’s symptoms are very different than men’s, and often aren’t as dramatic. “Although men and women can experience chest pressure that feels like an elephant sitting across the chest, women can experience a heart attack without chest pressure,” Dr. Nieca Goldberg, medical director for the Joan H. Tisch Center for Women’s Health at New York University’s Langone Medical Center told the American Heart Association (AHA). “Instead, they may experience shortness of breath, pressure or pain in the lower chest or upper abdomen, dizziness, lightheadedness or fainting, upper back pressure or extreme fatigue.”
According to the AHA, heart attack signs in women include the following:
- Uncomfortable pressure, squeezing, fullness or pain in the center of the chest that lasts more than a few minutes or may go away before coming back.
- Pain or discomfort in the arms, back, neck, jaw or stomach.
- Shortness of breath with or without chest discomfort.
- Breaking out in a cold sweat, nausea or lightheadedness.
- While women’s most common symptom of a heart attack is chest pain or discomfort, women are more likely to experience some of the other common symptoms listed above. Men tend to primarily experience chest pain or discomfort.
Dr. Goldberg noted that some women who had a heart attack described feeling upper back pressure that felt like squeezing or a rope being tied around them, according to the AHA.
The National Heart Lung and Blood Institute, which is part of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, warned that the signs and symptoms of a heart attack can develop suddenly or slowly. Sometimes, you’ll find you are experiencing some of the symptoms within hours, days or weeks of a heart attack. The AHA notes that women think the symptoms of a heart attack may instead be due to acid reflux, the flu or normal aging. Instead, what is happening is that the blood flow that transports oxygen to the heart muscle is severely reduced or cut off completely. This stoppage is caused by arteries that have become thicker and harder from a build-up of fat, cholesterol and/or other substances.