Heart Attack Symptoms Often Ignored By Younger Women Until It’s Too Late

Heart attack survivor, Rosie O’Donnell is reaching out to help bring awareness to women’s heart health. She was only 50-years-old when struck by a nearly fatal heart attack in 2012. Her symptoms began a few hours after physical exertion, but she waited more than a day before seeking medical help. She became hot, clammy, and sick to her stomach. However, she took some aspirin and went to bed instead of immediately calling 911.

“I only had pain in my biceps, and it did not radiate. Mine felt like a bear had attacked my arm.”

Women often have more subtle heart attack symptoms than men. They may experience neck, back or jaw pain, dizziness, nausea, vomiting, abdominal pain, or sweating, according to the American Heart Association. O’Donnell developed an acronym to help women remember some of these symptoms – H.E.P.P.P. The letters stand for: hot, exhausted, pain, pail, puke. She even turned it into a short rap and taught it to Dr. Oz during a recent appearance on his show.

A new Yale study finds that Rosie O’Donnell was not alone in ignoring her symptoms. Researchers spoke with 30 women between the ages of 30 and 50-years-old who had suffered a heart attack. According to researcher Judith Lichtmanall, all 30 women delayed seeking treatment because they were unaware of their risk factors or did not think they were having a heart attack.

Women under 55 are also twice as likely to die after being hospitalized for a heart attack than men of the same age. Researchers believe this is because so many delay seeking treatment until it is too late. Women tend to hesitate calling 911 fearing embarrassment if their symptoms turn out to be something less serious. They also tend to put the care of their families and other responsibilities ahead of their own health.

“Young women with multiple risk factors and a strong family history of cardiac disease should not assume they are too young to have a heart attack. Participants in our study said they were concerned about initiating a false alarm in case their symptoms were due to something other than a heart attack. Identifying strategies to empower women to recognize symptoms and seek prompt care without stigma or perceived judgment may be particularly critical for young women at increased risk for heart disease.”

Many people assume breast cancer is the biggest threat to women’s health, but his isn’t the case. Heart disease is the No. 1 killer, claiming more than 15,000 women under age 55 each year in the United States.

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