If there is one thing Rosie O'Donnell is known for, it's for not being afraid to speak her mind, usually to get a laugh. But this time her message about her own heart attack is deadly serious.
As a heart-disease survivor and an active volunteer with WomenHeart (http://womenheart.org), I know that we hear stories similar to O'Donnell's every day from women who don't recognize their symptoms and delay calling 911. The latest data show that only one in five women believe heart disease is their greatest health threat, and 46 percent -- nearly half -- say they would do something other than call 911 if they were experiencing the symptoms of a heart attack.
Although women may experience heart-attack symptoms typical of men's symptoms (crushing chest pain, pain in the left arm), they also can experience a wide range of less-recognized symptoms including shortness of breath, nausea and vomiting, unusual fatigue and pain in the back, shoulders and jaw.
O'Donnell was lucky, but too often for others, delay in recognition of symptoms and seeking emergency medical care results in irreversible damage to heart muscle -- or death. This is no laughing matter, and kudos to O'Donnell for sounding the alarm and raising awareness.