Those who may have missed Rosie O’Donnell’s recent HBO Special called “Rosie O’Donnell: A Heartfelt Stand-up” might be surprised to learn that the 50 year old comedian suffered a major heart attack in 2012.
As she tells it, she experienced some arm pain after helping a very obese women get out of her car, followed sometime later by a feeling of severe exhaustion, nausea, sweating and vomiting.
Like so many women with similar symptoms, O’Donnell did not think she was having a heart attack which she had always associated with pain in the chest and left arm.
Fortunately she did take a few aspirin, but she didn’t call 9-1-1 and she didn’t see a cardiologist until her partner urged her to do so the next day.
Heart catheterization showed a 99 percent blockage in the coronary artery known as the “widow maker”.
According to the American Heart Association, about 720,000 people in the U.S. suffer heart attacks each year. Of these, 515,000 are a first heart attack and 205,000 happen in people who have already had a heart attack.
O’Donnell knows she is lucky to be alive which is why besides her usual comic routines, she used the HBO opportunity to educate about the differences between heart attack symptoms in men and women.
As a way to remember the various symptoms women may experience, she came up with the acronym H.E.P.P.P.
H is for Hotter than you’ve ever felt. (Some women say they feel as though they’re having a serious hot flash)
E is for exhaustion. (Some women describe this as feeling more tired than they’ve ever felt without having a reason for the fatigue)
P is for paleness. (As O’Donnell pointed out, this particular symptom is easier to recognize in lighter skinned individuals)
P is for Puke. (Nausea and vomiting is a very common symptom in both women and men)
P is for Pain. (Women, unlike men can have pain anywhere from the neck to the jaw to the chest to both arms to the tongue to either or both shoulders to the back)
Had O’Donnell recognized these as symptoms of a heart attack, she says she would have called 9-1-1 immediately. Since timing is critical to survival, knowing what to do is the best way to save a life.