Heart attack symptoms every woman should know

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PHOENIX -- While often thought of as an older man's health issue, heart disease is the No. 1 killer of women. According to GoRedForWomen.org, cardiovascular disease claims the lives of nearly 500,000 women every year. 500,000. That's a big number.

Actress and TV personality Rodie O'Donnell, 50, nearly became one of those women last week when she ignored symptoms of a heart attack. Her initial reaction and subsequent decision to delay treatment is not uncommon among women. After waiting a full day to see a cardiologist, the comedian said she's "lucky to be here."

"[K]now the symptoms ladies," O'Donnell later wrote on her blog. "[L]isten to the voice inside. [T]he one we all so easily ignore."

3TV's Kaley O'Kelley sat down with Dr. Reshy Gomes of Phoenix Heart to talk about the heart-attack symptoms need to know about and pay attention to.

Chest pain, discomfort, pressure or squeezing are the most common symptoms for men and women, but women are somewhat more likely than men to experience other heart attack symptoms.

  • Unusual upper body pain or discomfort in one or both arms, the back, shoulder, neck, jaw, or upper part of stomach
  • Shortness of breath
  • Nausea/vomiting
  • Unusual or unexplained fatigue (which may be present for days)
  • Breaking out in a cold sweat
  • Light-headedness or sudden dizziness

"Listen to your body," Gomes said. "If something that you do normally -- like walking for the mail or going up the stairs -- you suddenly start feeling short of breath or fatigued, then think, 'Something has changed.' Seek medical advice. Thsoe symptoms could well be a sign of impending heart attack."

Gomes says women should learn the risk factors for heart disease, as well, because the ultimate goal is prevention.

MayoClinic.com lists four main lifestyle changes you can employ to reduce your risk of heart disease.

  • Exercise 30 to 60 minutes a day on most days of the week.
  • Maintain a healthy weight.
  • Quit or don't start smoking.
  • Eat a diet that's low in saturated fat, cholesterol and salt.

Dr. Reshy Gomes can be reached at 602-298-7777 or visit www.phoenixheart.com for more information on cardiovascular heart disease in women.