Comedian and talk show host Rosie O’Donnell had a heart attack this past week but didn’t even know it.
O'Donnell told USAToday that after helping an elderly woman who had fallen, she became nauseous, had clammny skin and vomited. O'Donnell thought she had only pulled a muscle, when in reality, those symptoms were from a life-threatening heart attack.
Heart attacks don't always result in people clutching their chest or arm and falling to the ground. It’s a classic image that’s encouraged through movies, TV shows and popular culture, mostly because it’s true—but only for some people.
1. Men and Women are Different
For a man, the classic symptoms of a heart attack consist of a crushing pain in the chest or arms making it difficult to breath or do much more than fall to the ground. For a woman, the signs can be much more subtle.
"Women can experience a heart attack without chest pressure," Dr. Nieca Goldberg, a cardiologist at New York University, told USAToday.
Women have to be extra aware. A woman could experience classic heart attack symptoms, but their symptoms will often mimic the after effects of a good workout.
2. Heart Attack Signs for Women
Rosie felt soreness in her arms and chest and said that everything seemed like it was bruised. She became nauseous and threw up. Her skin was clammy but she felt very hot. All of these were classic signs of a heart attack—for a woman—according to the American Heart Association
What to look for:
- Uncomfortable pressure or pain in the center of your chest that lasts for a more than a few minutes or goes away and comes back.
- Pain or discomfort in one or both arms, the back, neck, jaw or stomach
- Shortness of breath (with or without chest pain)
- Breaking out in a cold sweat, nausea or lightheadedness
3. What To Do
If you think you’re having a heart attack do these two things:
- Take an aspirin: A single aspirin will begin to break down the blood clots that cause a heart attack. But don’t stop there.
- Get medical attention: Call 9-1-1 or just go to the emergency room and have a medical professional evaluate you and determine exactly what’s causing your symptoms.
Though she didn’t get immediate medical attention, Rosie did take some aspirin for the soreness she felt. That simple act quite possible saved her life. Whether you take an aspirin or not, always get medical attention if you believe you’re having a heart attack.
Recognizing a heart attack is the biggest thing you can do to survive it. Your body will let you know what’s happening. You just need to understand it and take quick action.
Heart disease is the No. 1 cause of death for both men and women in the United States. The American Heart Association says 785,000 Americans have some sort of heart attack every year, and another 195,000 heart attacks people don't even know they are having.
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