Nightly News | February 25, 2012
>>> we're back now with important health news about a silent killer among women . heart disease is the number one killer in the u.s. in fact, it kills more women than all cancers combined. and a new study this week is highlighting why so many women are dying. serving as a warning to pay attention to what their bodies are telling them. we get that information tonight from dr. nancy sneiderman.
>> reporter: maxine levy remembers when she woke up with overwhelming nausea. she told her husband to call 911.
>> my husband looked at me and he said, have you lost your mind? i said, maybe. i said, but let's call 911 and see what they say.
>> reporter: at just 41 years old, maxine was having a heart attack .
>> that was not at all on my radar. not possible. i wasn't a smoker. i had low blood pressure . i didn't have diabetes.
>> reporter: she did not have chest pain . a new study shows 42% of women who arrive at the hospital already having a heart attack don't have that classic red flag . and once at the hospital nearly 15% of women die, compared with 10% of men. one reason is that women are more likely to have atypical symptoms. shortness of breath, light headedness, pain in the jaw, neck or arms, nausea, cold sweats and extreme fatigue. those symptoms which are most common in younger women are not always recognized as a serious threat.
>> this creates a perfect storm . because women get to the hospital later. they're traditionally sicker when they arrive.
>> reporter: recognizing atypical symptoms of the heart attack is one thing. but empowering women to act on them and get medical help, well, that's a completely different matter.
>> research has shown that only 50% of them would actually call 911 if they thought they were experiencing a heart attack .
>> reporter: linda bugby ignored her symptoms for years.
>> overtired, tightness in my chest. pain in my jaw. but i thought it was heart burn .
>> reporter: she was dying nosed with heart disease . but says she paid a hefty price for putting things off as long as she did.
>> i medicated myself with ant ac -- ant acids and knowing that it was probably serious.
>> reporter: gender can make a difference. knowing those differences and acting on them can save your life.
>> we can't give you those life-saving therapies when you show up at the hospital too late.
>> reporter: dr. nancy snyderman , new york.