She ignored the discomfort, despite several people asking if she was OK. When the time came to give her speech, she was sweating profusely and couldn’t talk; someone else had to read it for her.
On a mission, she was experiencing what she dubbed "Superwoman syndrome." "I was denying something was going on. For me it was more important to get my point across about saving the hospital," Ms. Rose (D-North Shore) said during a recent press conference at Staten Island University Hospital (SIUH) regarding women and heart disease.
After speaking to a physician assistant friend later that day, Ms. Rose realized she actually was experiencing a heart attack and finally went to the hospital.
"I’m a caregiver. I’m concerned with the pain of everyone else, as most women are," she said. "That’s why the numbers are so high in terms of women who die of heart disease."
Ms. Rose joined Dr. Thomas Costantino, director of Cardiology at SIUH, and Dr. Joseph McGinn, medical director of The Heart Institute, to raise awareness of the signs of heart attack in women and the importance of knowing numbers that contribute to heart health.
Held in the Regina M. McGinn, M.D. Education Center on the hospital’s Ocean Breeze campus, the event took place during American Heart Month. Prior to the presentation, the hospital offered free heart screenings to women, checking their weight, blood pressure, blood sugar and cholesterol levels.
Heart disease, the speakers noted, is the No. 1 killer of both men and women in the United States. According to the American Heart Association (AHA), it kills more women than all cancers combined.
Around 8 million women in the country are living with heart disease, the AHA states, yet only one in six believes that heart disease is her greatest health threat.
"Women get heart disease a little later than men," Dr. McGinn said, commenting, "Many women are very stoic and deal with the pain and discomfort. They don’t tell their doctors. We need to let all women know they are susceptible to heart disease."
The SIUH doctors pointed out that heart attack symptoms in women can differ from those in men. For instance, it doesn’t necessarily present as tightness in the chest; it can take the form of fatigue, extreme weakness, shortness of breath, discomfort in the upper abdomen, profuse sweating, nausea and vomiting.
Heart attacks are somewhat preventable, Dr. Costantino said, noting that 94 percent of people in the United States have at least one risk factor for developing a heart problem. While age, gender and family history can’t be altered, other factors can.
"A sedentary lifestyle and bad eating habits are something we can do something about," he said. "Obviously, we can’t eliminate everything, but this can help us see our grandchildren grow up. Much of it is preventative medicine."
This starts with today’s youth, who, like adults, are facing an obesity epidemic. Parents need to set a good example for their children, Dr. Costantino said, so they know how to lead a healthy lifestyle.
"The message here is not only about fixing something that’s broke," the cardiologist said. "It’s also about not letting it break."
Allyson Silverman of West Brighton attended the screening and conference hoping to learn something new. Although she’s just 33 years old, Ms. Silverman believes it’s never too early to start investing in one’s health.
"Stay on top of your health," she advises other women. "Go for blood work, eat healthy and low-fat foods, go for screenings. If a problem arises, go see a doctor as soon as possible. A heart attack and stroke can sneak up on you."
To learn more and take a quiz to see if you’re at risk for a heart attack, visit bypasstheordinary.co
City Councilwoman Debi Rose remembers the day well. She was protesting the closing of Bayley Seton Hospital in Clifton nearly 10 years back, when she began to feel dizzy, nauseous and out of breath.