Rosie O’Donnell

You Could Be Having A Heart Attack

August 22, 2012 at 9:48 am , by

On Monday Rosie O’Donnell reported on her blog that she had a heart attack. She knew she was having symptoms that could be a heart attack. She Googled it. She even took an aspirin. But she didn’t call 911. That happens way too often, says cardiologist Holly Andersen, M.D., a member of the LHJ Medical Advisory Board. I called Dr. Andersen as soon as I heard. She’s director of education and outreach at the Ronald O. Perelman Heart Institute at New York Presbyterian Hospital and has been a key source in several LHJ stories on women and heart disease, so I knew she’d have a lot to say about this.

JB: Rosie O’Donnell is 50 years old. She looks like the average American woman. She probably thought it couldn’t happen to her and was in denial, right?

HA: Right, and that’s why we need to raise awareness. She thought she was having a heart attack and took an aspirin. That is denial and making excuses: “It can’t be me. I don’t have time for this right now.” And that’s why we have to get the message out that it can be you.

JB: But she seems to be okay.

HA: She’s very lucky to be alive. If she had a 99 percent blockage in her left anterior descending artery, the so-called widowmaker, it could have closed off and she could have had sudden death. Younger women who have a heart attack are more likely to die from it.

JB: Why do more women die from heart attacks?

HA: Right now a young woman who has a heart attack in this country will wait longer before going to the emergency room, will be less likely to have classic symptoms of a heart attack, will be less likely to have a diagnostic electrocardiogram and consequently will be less likely to be diagnosed correctly. But even if she is diagnosed correctly, she will be less likely to get all the life-saving treatments she needs. And even if the decision is made to give them to her, they will be given, on average, 13 minutes later than they’re given to a man. Those of us who treat heart attacks have a saying: Time is muscle. But even when you control for all of those variables, a woman will still be more likely to die from a heart attack than a man, and the youngest women have the greatest death discrepancy rates compared with men. We don’t know why.

JB: Are women’s heart-attack symptoms really that different from men’s?

HA: Instead of feeling like an elephant is sitting on her chest, a woman may feel pain in her back, shoulders, neck or jaw. She may feel dizzy and sweaty, have extreme fatigue or shortness of breath. However, pretty much everybody recognizes that there is something wrong. It’s not okay to just go to your doctor. If you think you’re having those symptoms, call 911 and get to the emergency room.

JB: So don’t be embarrassed or worried that the doctors might think you’re overreacting?

HA: Oh God, no. We’d much rather be taking care of indigestion in the ER than missing heart attacks. I have this patient who’s a life coach. She went into atrial fibrillation, and her heart was racing so much she felt like she was going to die. So what did she do? She went into her bedroom, put on nice clothes, put on makeup, packed everything, then told her friend and then called 911. Men don’t do that. It’s insane!

Heart disease is the biggest killer of women, and we’re losing the battle. We need to get women to understand that they’re at risk and get them to help us fight the battle. So let’s raise awareness, talk to each other, try to practice risk reduction. But if you think something’s wrong, absolutely call 911. Rosie was really lucky—but you might not be.

Click here for more heart health resources.

Photograph copyright lenetstan, Shutterstock

Red Carpet Report: The 2011 Matrix Awards

April 15, 2011 at 3:47 pm , by

New York Women In Communications held its 41st annual Matrix Awards ceremony on Monday at the Waldorf Astoria, and LHJ was on the scene! Winners of the esteemed award this year were Cindi Berger, Gwen Ifill, Robin Koval, Idina Menzel, Abbe Raven, Sheryl Sandberg, Gina Sanders, and Lifetime Achievement John LegendAward winner, Betty White – all of whom are “women who change the world” through their field of communication. On the red carpet and in their speeches, these ladies were full of inspiration and support for each other… and women everywhere. “I think it’s very important that we help one another,” said Evelyn Lauder, who later presented Sanders with her award. “And there’s nothing like networking with younger women to guide and advise them as they develop in their careers.” Beyond the overwhelming sense of sisterhood, highlights of the luncheon included a surprise performance by John Legend (above, who appropriately sang “Let It Shine”), and what felt like a mini stand-up routine from Rosie O’Donnell who snuck in an impression of Arianna Huffington while presenting Berger with her award. We know why their outstanding accomplishments in communications make them each a Matrix Award winner, but read on to see what they said when we asked, “What Makes You A Lady?”…

Matrix Group 75

{Top Row: Presenters L-R} Rosie O'Donnell, Linda Kaplan Thaler, Mark Burnett, Evelyn Lauder, Paula Kerger, Arianna Huffington, and Dana Tyler. {Bottom Row: Matrix Winners L-R} Cindi Berger, Robin Koval, Abbe Raven, Gina Sanders, Gwen Ifill, Sheryl Sandberg, and Idina Menzel. (Photos Courtesy of

Sheryl Sandberg (Facebook): “I think the important thing for women is to feel empowered.  To be a lady is to feel that you can step forward and do what you want to do, accomplish what you want to accomplish.” 

Idina Menzel (Tony Award-winning performer): “These days, I think what makes me a lady is being able to be a mother, a wife, and a career woman at the same time and to not go crazy in the process! You have to balance it all with grace, and it’s not easy. I’m trying to figure it out moment to moment while trying to stay IN the moment.”

Robin Koval (The Kaplan Thaler Group): “I think being a strong woman makes you a lady – it gives you the perspective on when to be tough, but to do it nicely. I always practice the power of nice which means you’re not being naive, you’re not being a doormat, and you’re getting everything you want without crushing other people.”

Gwen Ifill (Washington Week and The PBS NewsHour): “People expect more of women – we can’t be too tough and we can’t be too retiring, it’s a line we have to walk. Because I was raised in a time when you had to just break through the doors, it wasn’t until I was a grown woman in this business that I realized the value of being a lady…it turns out you can get a lot more accomplished if you’re ladylike, but firm, in what you want to do.”

Gina Sanders (Fairchild Fashion Group): “Being a lady is knowing what you need to do while always being mindful of others – I think you can get to a goal in a way that everybody wins. Your moving up, doesn’t mean someone else should move down. Everyone counts.”

To learn more about the 2011 Matrix Awards and to participate in the online Charity Buzz auction  to benefit the NYWICI Foundation (open through April 27th), visit