02/01/2013 09:55 am ET Updated Apr 03, 2013

Heart Health Month: What Every Woman Should Know

Did you know that heart disease is the leading cause of death among women in this country, and that it's more deadly than all forms of cancer combined? According to the American Heart Association, 43 million women in the U.S. are affected by heart disease, and it is the cause of one in three women's deaths every year. And since 1984, more women than men die of heart disease each year.

The statistics are truly shocking. But February is Heart Health Month, so we want to help get the word out to make sure that all women are informed about heart disease. For example, the symptoms are different for women than they are for men, and many women don't even know what to watch for. So, I asked my dear friend, the brilliant Dr. Oz, what signs or symptoms might be indicative of a heart attack.

"The #1 symptom to watch out for," he wrote, "is shortness of breath, especially if it occurs during activities that don't ordinarily bother you. This is your body's way of giving you a warning. To guard against heart troubles, I recommend DHA Omega 3 fats -- which are found in fish oils. They're the most important supplements."

I also spoke with Barbra Streisand, who has joined the fight against women's heart disease by launching a $10 million fundraising campaign on behalf of the Women's Heart Center at the Cedars-Sinai Heart Institute in Los Angeles. Barbra told me, "Twenty-five to fifty percent of women don't fit male patterns for heart disease. Women having a heart attack, for example, don't always experience what men usually do, like chest pain associated with exertion. Instead, they may feel chest pressure, indigestion, shortness of breath, or fatigue. Women need to know this."

Just last year, my dear friend Rosie O'Donnell suffered a heart attack, and she didn't even realize what was happening at the time. But she did a quick search online, and because of a TV commercial she had seen, Rosie took four aspirins and chewed them, and that may have saved her life. She visited her doctor the next day and learned that her coronary artery was 99 percent blocked. She was sent to the hospital immediately, and has since made a full recovery, but it was a close call and a scary lesson to learn.

As always, knowledge is power, and we've learned that there are many things we can do on a daily basis to improve out heart health, so please take a moment to review the following facts and share them with your mothers, sisters and friends. You never know. The life you save may be your own.

Heart-Healthy Tips