Photo of Rosie O'Donnell

Rosie O’Donnell

In retrospect, Rosie O’Donnell realizes she put herself at risk of heart disease.

She was very overweight at 220 pounds, and admittedly “was not exercising at all.” Plus, she had a strong family history of heart disease. Even when symptoms started, she failed to take them seriously.

“Since my mom died of breast cancer when I was 10, I assumed that’s what would kill me,” O’Donnell told WJBK-2 in Detroit on Friday, prior to appearing at a Go Red for Women luncheon.

“I didn’t take care of myself,” O’Donnell said later in the interview. “That’s why I’m here, to try to get women to know you’re worth it, take care of yourself and know the symptoms.”

O’Donnell said a main artery in her heart was almost fully blocked for 60 hours. During the procedure in which her blockage was discovered and treated, doctors asked O’Donnell’s wife if O’Donnell was an organ donor, and asked the comedian if she wanted to be shocked back to life.

“They didn’t think I would make it,” she said.

That was in August 2012. Now, O’Donnell uses her story to help other women understand their risks of heart disease. She especially notes that heart disease is the No. 1 killer of women, claiming more lives each year than all forms of cancer combined.

Once she left the hospital, O’Donnell vowed to become healthier. She said she could only walk about 5 minutes before running out of energy. Now, she and her wife walk an hour each day. O’Donnell also told WJBK-2 reporter Roop Raj that she had weight-loss surgery last year.