Women urged to recognize symptoms of heart attacks

NBC Nightly News reported that Rosie O’Donnell’s heart attack in which she “did not recognize the symptoms right away” has “become something of a teaching moment for the heart symptoms women should look for.”

NBC added, “Knowing how men’s and women’s symptoms can differ can save a woman’s life. Crushing chest pain is a well known symptom, as are sweating, anxiety and irregular heartbeat, but for women, it can be pain in the jaw or upper belly, nausea, vomiting, shortness of breath, overwhelming fatigue and dizziness.”

The story identifies as a risk factor “waist circumference: for women 35 inches and higher, for men 40 inches and higher.”

ABC World News pointed out that O’Donnell “survived,” but “made one mistake that could have cost her life.” ABC explained, “O’Donnell didn’t seek medical attention right away. Instead of calling for help, she took an aspirin and waited until the next day to see a cardiologist where she learned her coronary artery was 99% blocked.”

On ABC World News, ABC’s chief medical editor Richard Besser, MD, said, “She recognized some of the less common symptoms that are seen more frequently in women like nausea and sweating and then she acted, she chewed an aspirin, and chewing an aspirin gets it into your blood quickly and prevents that blockage from getting any larger.” But, “she went to bed. … When you’re having a heart attack, you dial 911. You don’t go to bed.”

The USA Today “Healthy Perspective” blog reports that last week, when Rosie O’Donnell suffered a heart attack, she made “a common mistake,” not calling 911.

According to an American Heart Association poll, 50% of women “said they would not call 911 if they thought they were having a heart attack.”

The blog asserts that “making that call as soon as symptoms start can make the difference between life and death.” Says Nakela Cook, a cardiologist at the National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute, “Time is so crucial. … We say that literally every minute does matter in terms of the amount of recovery that might be possible: Time is muscle.”

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