Heart Attack Symptoms Women Should Look For

INSIDE EDITION has what you need to know on heart attack symptoms for women that often go unchecked until it's too late.

After suffering a heart attack, Rosie O'Donnell said, "My body hurt. I had an ache in my chest. Both my arms were sore. Everything felt bruised."

The symptoms Rosie O'Donnell described are "classic" signs of a woman's heart attack, as another woman knows all too well.

Lisa Headley is 53, three years older than Rosie O'Donnell. She had no idea she was having a heart attack last year at her office at Scientific American magazine in New York City. 

"I felt pressure in my chest and I thought I had indigestion. I felt pain in my back. I didn't really feel anything in my heart at all," said Headley.

A co-worker insisted on calling 911 and that decision probably saved Headley's life.

"If you feel any of those symptoms, you definitely need to get checked out," said Headley.

Dr. Nieca Goldberg is Headley's cardiologist and told INSIDE EDITION, "Often times women's heart attack symptoms are more subtle than those of men. They don't often have that Hollywood heart attack where they're clutching the center of their chest and get all sweaty."

Heart disease is the No. 1 killer of women—more than all forms of cancer combined. And a recent study says 42 percent of women have no chest pain symptoms—the warning sign most associated with a heart attack.

Actress Elizabeth Banks made a public service announcement for the American Heart Association that warns about the symptoms of a woman's heart attack.

The annual Wear Red Day, where supermodel Christie Brinkley took a memorable stumble on the runway this year, is also intended to increase awareness of heart disease in women.  

INSIDE EDITION's own Deborah Norville dresses on every Wear Red Day, along with many other well-known women, some of whom know about heart disease firsthand.

Barbara Walters had open heart surgery in 2010 to replace a faulty heart valve. Star Jones also had open heart surgery. And singer Toni Braxton was just 40 years old when she had a heart attack while performing during a Broadway show.

These are heart attack warning signs every woman should watch out for: 

  • Uncomfortable pressure or squeezing in your chest lasting more than a few minutes.
  • Pain or discomfort in your arms, back, neck, jaw, or stomach.
  • Shortness of breath.
  • Cold sweats, nausea, or lightheadedness.

O'Donnell took an aspirin when she experienced some of these symptoms, but Dr. Goldberg says she didn't do enough.

"I advise anyone who thinks they're having a heart attack to take that aspirin, but also to simultaneously call 911," said Dr. Goldberg.

Doctors say prevention is key. Two-thirds of women who have a heart attack never make a full recovery.  For more information on how to keep your heart healthy, go to www.goredforwomen.org.