In a poem on her blog, O’Donnell reveals that she ignored her symptoms initially and only realised things were serious when she searched for an answer on the internet. On visiting a cardiologist she was immediately treated with a stent, to open up her 99 per cent blocked artery.
You might be wondering how anyone could fail to notice a heart attack coming on, but not recognising the symptoms is very common – particularly in women – and it can be fatal. This is because women tend to experience different heart attack symptoms to the ones generally seen in dramas on the TV.
Rather than sharp pains that make you cling to your chest, or tingling and pain in your left arm, women’s symptoms of a heart attack are harder to spot.
Chest pain is common (it’s still the main sign of a heart attack for both men and women) but many women present without pain, giving rise to the idea of a ‘silent’ heart attack.
Heart attack symptoms women should look out for include:
- Heavy pressure on the chest, not necessarily pain, but like there’s a heavy weight on the centre of left side of your chest. It may come and go and can be mistaken for indigestion.
- Shortness of breath that comes on suddenly when you haven’t exerted any energy. Struggling to take breaths combined with discomfort in your chest is a definite sign to get checked out.
- Nausea and vomiting. This is far more common for women than men and is often hard to link to the idea of a heart attack.
- Sudden fatigue, which is easy to ignore as it can last for a few days or come and go. This can also combine with weak or tired muscles.
- Dizziness and feeling light-headed.
- Sharp pains in your torso or arms. Women are also more likely to report stabbing pains in the back, shoulder, neck or jaw.
- Cold sweats or unexplained or extreme sweating.