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Rosie O'Donnell's Heart Attack: Know Your Symptoms

Taking Aspirin a Good Step, but She Should Have Called 911, Expert Says

Is it common for women to brush off symptoms like Rosie says she did?

I have heard this many times from women, that they wait, or they were too busy with the family or the children. They ignore their symptoms or didn't think much of it. They didn't think it could be a heart attack. I don't think it's uncommon.

I had one woman who took an hour-long bath [after symptoms set in].

What factor or factors likely triggered Rosie's heart attack?

Without knowing her history, it is hard to say which one factor or combination of factors. Five traditional risk factors all play approximately an equal role -- high blood pressure, high cholesterol, high blood sugar or diabetes, smoking, and family history of early heart disease, less than 55 for a man or less than 65 for a woman.

What about excess weight and stress?

Excess weight can contribute to heart risk factors such as blood pressure and diabetes, while stress can lead to increased chemicals and hormones in the blood stream, which raise blood pressure and heart rate.

Managing stress and maintaining a healthy body weight through diet and exercise are important at all ages.

To prevent heart disease, women should exercise 150 minutes (2 hours and 30 minutes) of moderate intensity or 75 minutes (1 hour and 15 minutes) of vigorous intensity a week.

What should women in Rosie's age range be doing about their heart health?

For women entering their 50s, this is an important warning to have their heart risk factors evaluated. It's not only the average age of menopause, which of itself can be an important risk factor for heart disease.

It's important to have a full evaluation. Know your blood pressure, blood sugar, cholesterol, weight, and be more aware of it.

What is Rosie's treatment plan likely to be, and what is the outlook for her?

It is important for her to take her medications. She would likely be put on an aspirin. She may be put on a second blood thinner. She will most likely be put on a statin, not just for cholesterol, but for inflammation.

We now want her cholesterol to be ultra low. Statins play a pivotal role in lowering inflammation.

She will likely be put on a beta blocker or ACE inhibitor -- they help heal the heart after a heart attack.

Cardiac rehabilitation is recommended for both men and women after a recent heart procedure such as a stent. This is a monitored exercise program to help reduce cardiac risk factors and is recommended for three times a week for three months. The program also includes nutritional counseling, stress management, and relaxation sessions.

I would predict she will have a very successful recovery.

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