Attention Women! You could be having a heart attack – and not even know it.

A message from Lorie Greenwood, DC:

We here at the Mosenthal Spine & Sport want all of our patients to be happy and healthy. Eating a good diet, exercising, getting a good night’s sleep and managing stress are all key behaviors that can lead to health. However, it also pays to know when things aren’t right, and when you should really call 911 for help.

As you may have heard, women do have different symptoms related to heart attack than men. We recognize a heart attack as that classic pain in the left side of the chest with pain into the left arm that we see in the movies and define as “a heart attack.” However, I wanted to share a very vivid description of female heart attack symptoms that talk show host Rosie O’Donnell experienced when she had “The Widow Maker” as a woman, a very serious and often fatal heart attack due to the particular heart artery involved. She unfortunately ignored her symptoms and waited 2 days before getting herself medical attention, which in many cases proves to be a fatal mistake. She simply didn’t recognize this aggregate of symptoms as something about which to be overly concerned. Once she was informed by medical staff that she had, in fact, experienced a very severe heart attack, she decided to share her story so that other women may recognize the symptoms and get help faster than she did.

She had performed some strenuous activity that day, which made it easier for her to explain away her symptoms as nothing serious. But after she learned the symptoms she had were exceedingly serious, she made up an acronym of her symptoms and described them vividly to share so that this situation would not be ignored in others. These were her particular symptoms and her acronym:

HEPPP: Hot, Exhausted, Pain, Pale, and Puke

During her heart attack, she said she was Hotter than she’d ever been at any time in her life: hotter even than when she had menopause hot flashes in her 40’s. She was also Exhausted: she was more exhausted than she had ever been in her life, all she wanted to do was lie down, and doing more than that seemed impossible. Pain: She said she felt like “a bear had ripped her biceps off”. That was her first symptom, and even though she had done some strenuous activity that day, it should not have caused symptoms that would be analogous to a wild animal eating her. Pale: she looked as Pale as a ghost, and her family remarked on her paleness to her. Still, she brushed it off. Puke: on the second day of ignoring these symptoms she threw up, and it was her body’s last defense to make her chest heave and to get her attention. After she threw up she Googled the symptoms and found with a female heart attack she had 5 for 5 of all the symptoms. Taken together, these symptoms are not to be ignored. I’ll say it again:

HEPPP: Hot, Exhausted, Pain, Pale, Puke

WebMD also lists common symptoms to look out for, and some of these Rosie O’Donnell did not experience, but they should be known.

bigstock_heart-health-month_web1) Chest or stomach pain that may be an intense pain or alternatively feel like vice-like pressure or squeezing.It may feel like an elephant is sitting on the chest or stomach or like the torso is being squeezed in a vice.

2) Pain in the back, jaw or arms that may wax and wane or come on gradually before becoming intense.

3) Shortness of breath, nausea or lightheadedness. One might feel like they had just run a marathon but didn’t, feel dizzy, or throw up.

4) Sweating that feels like stress related sweating/sweating for no reason.

5) Fatigue: like walking to the kitchen or bathroom is just too much work, and those rooms feel like they are 10 miles away.

If a number of these symptoms are present together in someone you love (including yourself), call an ambulance. Driving one’s self is not safe and time is of the essence.

Of course, as stated above, we want none of our patients to experience any of these things in themselves or their loved ones. We wish you all to be happy and healthy members of our community, but also knowledgeable for the “just in cases” that can happen in life.