By now you've probably heard, seen or read that celeb and talk show host Rosie O'Donnell suffered a heart attack and, essentially, saved her own life. She is 50 years old and struggles with the same health issues that so many of us non-celebrity women struggle with every day.
There is an important lesson here for us all to learn: She is not alive today because she's a wealthy celeb with access and power. She's alive today, after what was reported as a massive cardiac episode, because she remembered what to do (and got lucky....which we all can do, too.)
Cardiac symptoms in women
I want to take us all through what happened and what she did so we can all remember to be mindful of our bodies when they are screaming for us to call 911! As women - and you all know what I'm going to write here - we are trained to put ourselves last....to avoid/ignore/deny/dismiss our own symptoms/health/ discomfort/instincts. Well, let's retrain ourselves. Since everybody depends on us to keep it together, it seems short-sighted not to take Rosie's cardiac incident and learn from it to help us help ourselves. She is generously telling her story, doing the circuit so all women can learn from this.
Heart disease is the number 1 killer of women.
So, according to what O'Donnell wrote in her blog post called, My Heart Attack, she was in a parking lot and heard a woman calling for help. The woman, who was heavy, couldn't get out of her car. Rosie strained and helped pull the lady out.
I'll let her take it from here. (Rosie writes her blog post in poem format):
"a few hours later my body hurt
i had an ache in my chest
both my arms were sore
everything felt bruised
muscular - i thought
strained or pulled tissue
i went about my day
the pain persisted
i became nauseous
my skin was clammy
i was very very hot
i threw up"
She Googled "womens heart attack symptoms" and saw she had "many of them." In a stroke of brilliance, she took an aspirin "thank god saved by a tv commercial literally," she writes.
"i did not call 911
50% of women having heart attacks never call 911
200,000 women die of heart attacks
every year in the US"
She saw a cardiologist the next day, they did tests, and they found a 99% blockage and did successful surgery to place a stent in and open up the blood flow. She writes: "i am lucky to be here"
But we can all have this luck. We can all pay attention to the symptoms Rosie described, and add pain in your jaw as well. Here's a great resource describing heart attack signs and symptoms in women.
- Uncomfortable pressure, squeezing, fullness or pain in the center of your chest. It lasts 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 discomfort.
- Other signs such as breaking out in a cold sweat, nausea or lightheadedness.
- As with men, women's most common heart attack symptom is chest pain or discomfort. But women are somewhat more likely than men to experience some of the other common symptoms, particularly shortness of breath, nausea/vomiting and back or jaw pain.
The heart: check it out.
Whatever it is, check it out. Listen to your body. Take your health seriously. Take an aspirin if advised by your doctor. Call 911. Do not ignore your body or your instincts. Know how you just feel something when your kids and loved ones are in trouble? Well turn that same maternal instinct inward and take care of yourself.
Read lots more on women, health and mothering: