The former talk show host, 50, described her symptoms that persisted following helping an "enormous woman struggling to get out of her car" in poetic verse:
"a few hours later my body hurt/ i had an ache in my chest/ both my arms were sore/ everything felt bruised/ muscular – i thought/ strained or pulled tissue/ i went about my day/ i became nauseous/ my skin was clammy/ i was very very hot/ i threw up"
O'Donnell, like 50 percent of women who have heart attacks, resisted her instinct to call 911. Instead she popped some Bayer Aspirin and scheduled an appointment with her cardiologist for the next day. O'Donnell's doctor discovered a 99 percent blocked artery in her heart—her Left Anterior Descending (LTD) artery, also known as the widow maker.
O'Donnell concluded her blog with words of advice to her female fans: "know the symptoms ladies/ listen to the voice inside/ the one we all so easily ignore/ CALL 911/ save urself".
"She is now home and resting comfortably. She is very, very lucky," a rep for O'Donnell told People.
According to the American Heart Association, an estimated 400,000 women in the United States die every year of heart disease—10 times the number of females who die from breast cancer annually. For women over 40 years old, especially after menopause, heart disease is the leading cause of death. Despite this, "women often chalk up the symptoms to less life-threatening conditions like acid reflux, the flu or normal aging," the Association states.
American Indians and Alaska Natives, on average, are more likely to be diagnosed with heart disease than their white counterparts. This rings even more true for American Indian and Alaska Native females, age 18 and over, of whom 14.2 percent are diagnosed with heart disease. In comparison, 10.8 percent of White females suffer from heart disease, according to statistics from 1999-2003 by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services' Office of Minority Health.
Roughly two-thirds of women and even one-third of doctors don't recognize the symptoms of heart attack in females, Dr. Kathleen McNicholas, a former heart surgeon and medical director of performance improvement at Christiana Care Health System in Newark, Delaware, told ABC News.
"It's very typical of women," McNichola said. "The symptoms are not quite as classic and we really don't want to believe it. We are queens of denial.
"These symptoms are often more subtle than the classic 'elephant sitting on your chest.' The universal sign of a heart attack, clutching your chest, often doesn't apply to women."
The American Heart Association lists the below signs of heart attack in women:
1. Uncomfortable pressure, squeezing, fullness or pain in the center of your chest. It lasts more than a few minutes, or goes away and comes back.
2. Pain or discomfort in one or both arms, the back, neck, jaw or stomach
3. Shortness of breath with or without chest discomfort
4. Other signs such as breaking out in a cold sweat, nausea or lightheadedness
5. As with men, women’s most common heart attack symptom is chest pain or discomfort. But women are somewhat more likely than men to experience some of the other common symptoms, particularly shortness of breath, nausea/vomiting and back or jaw pain.
If you have any of these signs, don’t wait more than five minutes before calling for help. Call 9-1-1 and get to a hospital right away.