The force dims – Carrie Fisher passes at age 60

One in three women have heart disease that could lead to a heart attack that kills more than 40 million women a year. Carrie Fisher is one of the lucky ones that survived. Do you know how to survive if it happens to you?

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Carrie Fisher - Image courtesy Debbie Reynolds twitter feed

WASHINGTON, December 27, 2016 – The force is strong in Carrie Fisher; after suffering a heart attack while flying into LAX, Fisher’s mother, actress Debbie Reynolds, announced on Christmas Day, via twitter, that Fisher is now in stable condition.

“Carrie is in stable condition,” Reynolds wrote. “If there is a change, we will share it. For all her fans and friends. I thank you for your prayers & good wishes.”

Unfortunately,  Fisher has now passed away.

Fisher (60) was on a United Airlines flight on approach to Los Angeles on Friday when she became ill. She was lucky because on the plane she had the assistance of a United Flight crew that was trained for emergencies and a doctor and nurse, passengers on the flight, able to provide life saving assistance.


35.3% of deaths in American women over the age of 20, or more than 432,000, are caused by cardiovascular disease each year. More than 200,000 women die each year from heart attacks- five times as many women as breast cancer. (Statistics from CardioSmart.org)

A heart attack happens when oxygen-rich blood flow to the heart muscle is severely reduced or stopped due to arteries that have become thicker and harder from a buildup of fat, cholesterol, and other substances, called plaque. Diabetes, obesity, high blood pressure, high cholesterol and smoking are all leading contributors to heart attacks in women.

This slow process is known as atherosclerosis. If the plaque breaks open and a blood clot forms that blocks the blood flow, a heart attack occurs.

Despite heart disease being the No. 1 killer of women in the United States, it is also often ignored as women self-diagnose the symptoms to less life-threatening conditions like acid reflux, the flu or normal aging.

“They do this because they are scared and because they put their families first,” Dr. Nieca Goldbergmedical director at the Joan H. Tisch Center for Women’s Health at NYU’s Langone Medical Center and an American Heart Association volunteer said to the American Heart Association. “There are still many women who are shocked that they could be having a heart attack.”

Six common heart attack symptoms for women:

  1. Chest pain or discomfort. Chest pain is the most common heart attack symptom, but some women may experience it differently than men.
  2. Pain in your arm(s), back, neck, or jaw.
  3. Stomach pain.
  4. Shortness of breath, nausea, or lightheadedness.
  5. Sweating.
  6. Fatigue.

Nieca Goldberg, M.D., also said that women can take steps to avoid heart emergencies.

  • Schedule an appointment with your healthcare provider to learn your personal risk for heart disease. You can also learn your risk with our Heart Attack Risk Calculator.
  • Quit smoking. Did you know that just one year after you quit, you’ll cut your risk of coronary heart disease by 50 percent?Start an exercise program. Just walking 30 minutes a day can lower your risk for heart attack and stroke.
  • Modify your family’s diet if needed. Check out these healthy cooking tips. You’ll learn smart substitutions, healthy snacking ideas and better prep methods. For example, with poultry, use the leaner light meat (breasts) instead of the fattier dark meat (legs and thighs), and be sure to remove the skin.

According to GoRedforWomen.org, a women’s heart health information group, not all women share equal risks:

General statistics

  • Cardiovascular diseases and stroke cause 1 in 3 women’s deaths each year, killing approximately one woman every 80 seconds.
  • An estimated 44 million women in the U.S. are affected by cardiovascular diseases.
  • 90% of women have one or more risk factors for heart disease or stroke.
  • Women have a higher lifetime risk of stroke than men.
  • 80% of heart disease and stroke events may be prevented by lifestyle changes and education
  • Fewer women than men survive their first heart attack.
  • The symptoms of heart attack can be different in women vs. men, and are often misunderstood – even by some physicians.
  • Women who are involved with the Go Red For Women movement live healthier lives.
  • When you get involved in supporting Go Red For Women by advocating, fundraising and sharing your story, more lives are saved.

Hispanic women

  • Hispanic women are likely to develop heart disease 10 years earlier than Caucasian women.
  • Cardiovascular diseases are the leading cause of death for Hispanic women, killing nearly 21,000 annually.
  • Only 34% of Hispanic women know that heart disease is their greatest health risk.
  • Hispanic women are least likely to have a usual source of health medical care and only 1 in 8 say that their doctor has ever discussed their risk for heart disease.

African American women

  • Cardiovascular diseases are the leading cause of death for African-American women, killing over 48,000 annually.
  • Only 36% of African American women  know that heart disease is their greatest health risk.
  • Of African-American women ages 20 and older, 48.3% have cardiovascular disease. Yet, only 14% believe that cardiovascular disease is their greatest health problem.
  • Only about 50% of African-American women are aware of the signs and symptoms of a heart attack.

Carrie Fisher is one of the lucky one in three women that survive a heart attack. She was on a plane approaching LAX airport where emergency medical technicians were at the ready. Because you may not have that assistance available to you, know what to do to save your life:

According to the Mayo Clinic, in addition to having your heart health checked by a specialist and living a heart healthy lifestyle,  be aware of the emergency steps you need to take. if you experience a heart episode.

What to do if you or someone else may be having a heart attack (Mayo Clinic):

  • Call 911 or your local medical emergency number. Don’t ignore or attempt to tough out the symptoms of a heart attack for more than five minutes. If you don’t have access to emergency medical services, have a neighbor or a friend drive you to the nearest hospital. Drive yourself only as a last resort, and realize that it places you and others at risk when you drive under these circumstances.
  • Chew and swallow an aspirin, unless you are allergic to aspirin or have been told by your doctor never to take aspirin. But seek emergency help first, such as calling 911.
  • Take nitroglycerin, if prescribed. If you think you’re having a heart attack and your doctor has previously prescribed nitroglycerin for you, take it as directed. Do not take anyone else’s nitroglycerin, because that could put you in more danger.
  • Begin CPR if the person is unconscious. If you’re with a person who might be having a heart attack and he or she is unconscious, tell the 911 dispatcher or another emergency medical specialist. You may be advised to begin cardiopulmonary resuscitation (CPR). If you haven’t received CPR training, doctors recommend skipping mouth-to-mouth rescue breathing and performing only chest compressions (about 100 per minute). The dispatcher can instruct you in the proper procedures until help arrives.
  • If an automated external defibrillator (AED) is available and the person is unconscious, begin CPR while the device is retrieved and set up. Attach the device and follow instructions that will be provided by the AED after it has evaluated the person’s condition.

Resolve to make your 2017 Heart Healthy with a check up with your physician, taking a daily walk, eating a heart-healthy diet and being aware of the symptoms and knowing what to do if you have a heart attack.

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