Earlier this week, TV personality Rosie O’Donnell suffered a heart attack. As reported by Fox54, the funny lady was shocked to find out her acute aches and pains were associated with a heart attack, symptoms she had posted on her blog. She experienced aches and pains in her arms and chest, then became nauseous and her skin felt clammy.

Dr. Janet Brill, author of Cholesterol Down, said these are common signs of a heart attack among women. “Women need to know that the signs and symptoms of a heart attack among women are often much different from the classic Hollywood ‘elephant on the chest’ crushing sensation often felt in men. They are much more subtle and harder to diagnose. In fact, the symptoms most often seen in women experiencing a heart attack are unusual fatigue, sleep disturbances, and shortness of breath. Nausea is also a common symptom.”

According to the Women’s Heart Foundation, 435,000 American women have heart attacks annually. Heart disease is the number one killer among women, but most women ignore subtle signs of a heart attack. Dr. Brill said, “Women tend to ignore the signs because they do not suspect heart disease– generally thought of as a ‘man’s disease.’ Women are not educated to suspect heart disease as a cause of certain symptoms. Warning symptoms can be linked to other conditions. Vague symptoms are often not treated aggressively. As a result, women often delay seeking medical attention.”

Rosie O’Donnell did not see a doctor until the day after she experienced her symptoms. She was worried enough to Google women’s heart attack symptoms. Fortunately, Rosie took an aspirin, which is advised for people who suspect they are suffering from a heart attack. If Rosie did not take an aspirin, she probably would not have survived, said Dr. Brill. “She most probably would have died as when it comes to surviving a heart attack. The aspirin may have helped the blockage enough to prevent the death of heart muscle cells in her left ventricle.”

Studies have proven aspirin to help reduce the chances of a heart attack and stroke. How does aspirin decrease the chance of a heart? According to Dr. Brill, “Aspirin reduces the blood’s ability to form a lethal clot. The large majority of heart attacks are caused by small volatile and inflamed plaque bursting open within a coronary artery followed by the formation of a large blood clot which seals off the artery causing death of heart muscle downstream.”

Although Rosie experienced symptoms of a heart attack, she didn’t call 911. “With those symptoms, that was a mistake, because the longer the heart goes without oxygen the more damage occurs to the heart muscle,” said Dr. Mary Ann McLaughlin, a medical director of the cardiac heath program and co-director of the Women’s Cardiac Assessment and Risk Evaluation Program at Mount Sinai Medical Center in New York City.

Rosie’s heart attack should be a lesson for women. Women should know signs of heart disease, heart attack, and stroke. Heart disease is the number one killer of women, but it can be defeated by eating and living healthily. Luckily, Rosie’s heart attack did not turn tragic. Rosie should implement a lifestyle change to reduce her chances of suffering another heart attack, says Dr. Brill. “Research has shown that the right medications combined with a heart healthy lifestyle can significantly cut the odds of a second heart attack! In fact, the combined benefit of diet, lifestyle and healthy body weight can cut the risk of another incident by 92%.”

The best lifestyle strategy is to exercise daily, lose weight, and eat healthy.

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