Rosie O'Donnell has heart attack: Signs all women should know


by Brandy Aguilar, Special projects

Posted on August 22, 2012 at 9:13 AM

Comedian Rosie O'Donnell said she's lucky to be here after suffering a heart attack. A Valley doctor said there are signs women experience and ignoring them could mean the difference between life or death.

O'Donnell just revealed she had a heart attack last week. She joins the more than 430,000 women who have one every year.

“We have to recognize that heart disease is the leading killer in the U.S. and still the leading killer for women,” said Dr. Grayson Wheatley with the Arizona Heart Institute.

O'Donnell is now calling on women to not ignore the signs. This after she experienced symptoms but didn’t go to her doctor until the next day. They inserted a stent after discovering her left main coronary artery was 99 percent blocked.

“The main artery that supplies all the blood flow to the heart muscle,” Wheatley said. “This blockage and location has the highest incidence of sudden cardiac death.”

Wheatley said while chest pain is still the main symptom for both men and women, "In generally women have a higher proportion of presenting symptoms that are atypical and by atypical we mean lightheadedness, dizziness, cold sweat, nausea, chest pressure or pain in the back,” he continued.

Symptoms the doctor said shouldn't be ignored.

“If the symptoms go on for more than five minutes, they should call 911 or go into the emergency room, which sounds like a very short period of time, but we're talking about a very serious health problem,” Wheatley said.

A serious issue that can be prevented by doing things like making sure you have don't have high blood pressure, eating right and exercising.

“If you do have any of these lifestyle issues, you should probably get checked up and not wait until the heart attack happens to get some screening,” Wheatley said.

The doctor said women typically get a full cardiac workup around age 60. But it all depends on your risk factors and family history, so talk to your doctor.