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By now you've probably heard the news about Rosie O'Donnell's heart attack. You also may know that she never called 911 and waited a full day after her symptoms started before seeking medical help. According to the American Heart Association (AHA), coronary heart disease is the single leading cause of death for American women. In fact, nearly twice as many women die from heart attack, stroke and other coronary heart diseases than of all forms of cancer combined, including breast cancer.
So, why is it that many of us still can't recognize the signs of a heart attack, which are different for women than men?
Once and for all, let's get it straight. According to WomenHeart, the National Coalition for Women with Heart Disease, here are the symptoms to know:
- Chest discomfort, pain, squeezing, burning or mild to severe pressure in the center of your chest that lasts more than a few minutes or comes and goes
- Upper body discomfort in one or both arms, back, neck, jaw or stomach
- Shortness of breath, with or without chest discomfort
- Dizziness, lightheadedness or fainting, nausea and vomiting or cold sweats
- Feelings of anxiety, fatigue or weakness-unexplained or when you exert yourself
Read More: What You Need to Know to Prevent Heart Disease
And what should you do if you think you're having a heart attack? WomenHeart says:
- Call 911 within 5 minutes of the start of symptoms. Tell the operator you think you are having a heart attack. Even if your symptoms stop completely in less than 5 minutes, call your doctor.
- Do not drive yourself or let family or friends drive you to the hospital. Emergency personnel can begin treating you on the way in an ambulance.
- Chew and swallow one regular full-strength aspirin with water as soon as possible to prevent blood clotting.
- At the hospital, make it clear that you are having symptoms of a heart attack. Ask for a complete cardiac evaluation, including an electrocardiogram (EKG) and a cardiac enzyme blood test.
- If you are waiting too long, tell them again that you are experiencing heart attack symptoms.
Read More: Surviving a Heart Attack at 30
What's stopping you from calling? Are you worried that you're overreacting? Now is not the time to be concerned about keeping up your cool and collected appearance. As O'Donnell says on her blog:
"know the symptoms ladies
listen to the voice inside
the one we all so easily ignore
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