Posted in Health, news, Entertainment

Left us too early: Celebrities who have died of heart complications

Heart attacks happen all too often.  Unfortunately despite our recent advancements in tackling cardiovascular disease, heart disease is still the number one killer.  Plaques, made of cholesterol, fat, calcium, fibrin and other substances build up along the lining of blood vessels, narrowing their lumen and decreasing flow to the heart and other organs.  As these plaques build they can become unstable and rupture. The rupture can tear the wall of the blood vessel and cause an immediate clot. This thrombosis obstructs blood flow as well.

A heart attack occurs when the muscle of the heart does not receive the blood supply it needs. The heart muscle becomes stressed, injured and can die.  Dead heart muscle can’t contract, hence the heart cannot beat.  Though some have lived through their ordeal with heart disease, such as Former President Bill Clinton, Larry King, Dick Cheney, Barbara Walters, many are not as fortunate.  Carrie Fisher died December 27th after suffering a heart attack mid flight from London to Los Angeles.  George Michael the same week died of “heart failure”.  Alan Thicke, Growing Pains and beloved TV Dad, passed away from a thoracic aortic dissection.   The blood flow dissects the lumen of the aorta, the main artery coming off the heart, and this side pooling within the vessel prevents adequate blood flow from getting to vital tissues. In many cases, the heart stops.

These deaths and many others sadly highlight the premature and abrupt passing of many of our favorite artists.  These include:

Tom Petty (1950-2017) age 66 – accidental drug overdose, multi organ failure, cardiopulmonary arrest

Nelsan Ellis (1978-2017) age 39 – complications of heart failure

Bill Paxton (1955-2017) age 61 – stroke following heart surgery

Carrie Fisher (1956-2016) age 60

George Michael (1963-2016) age 53 – heart failure

Florence Henderson (1934-2016) age 82

James Garner (1928-2014) age 86

James Gandolfini (1961-2013) 51

Issac Hayes (1942-2008) age 65

Richard Pryor (1940-2005) age 65

John Ritter (1948-2003) age 54 – died of aortic dissection

Peter Sellers (1918-2002) age 83

Jerry Garcia (1942-1995) age 53

John Candy (1940-1994) age 44

Redd Foxx (1922-1991) age 68

Orson Welles (1915-1985) age 70

James Cagney (1919-1984) age 86

Bing Crosby (1903-1977) age 74

Louis Armstrong (1901-1971) age 71

Gracie Allen (1906-1964) age 58

and sadly more……

What causes a heart attack?

A heart attack occurs when part of the heart muscle fails to receive the blood and oxygen it needs. This can occur by arteries supplying the heart muscle to become blocked.  Coronary artery disease can be caused by plaque build up from fats, sugars, calcium, fibrin that settle on the blood vessel wall. These plaques can build up and occlude the lumen, obstructing blood flow.

Additionally a heart attack can occur when an unstable plaque rips off, tearing the blood vessel lining causing the body to form an immediate clot. This clot can also be deadly as it obstructs the lumen as well.

What causes an aortic dissection?

Tragically, many do not know they are at risk.  These risk factors include:


Age (greater than 65)

Family History

Tobacco use

Connective tissue disease

Marfan’s Syndrome

Heart valve issues

Infection – such as tertiary syphilis

What causes heart failure?

When the heart, whose main function is to pump blood, is prevented from doing so, it begins to “fail”.  For more on heart failure, read here:

Heart disease, however, can be prevented……..

Firstly, we must know our risk factors. These include:

Family history of heart disease

Personal history of heart disease

High Blood Pressure

High Cholesterol





Males over 40

Females who are post menopausal

High stress

and even short stature has been cited as a potential risk factor.

As you can see, many of us can be at risk for heart disease.  Therefore secondly, we should be evaluated with an EKG, echocardiogram and any other exams our medical provider and/or cardiologist deem necessary.

Thirdly, reduce your risk by the following:

Maintain a normal blood pressure

Maintain normal blood sugar

Maintain normal cholesterol and lipid levels

Reduce stress

Maintain a balanced diet, rich in potassium-rich foods such as fruits and vegetables

Quit smoking

Stay active

Maintain a healthy weight.


Life Line Screening offers screenings for stroke, heart disease, lung disease, liver and kidney disease, testosterone deficiency, and so much more that can be done in a private setting at the work place for groups of employees.  For more information call 1-888-815-LIFE.

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                                                                                                         Medical Spanish made easy

Daliah Wachs, MD, FAAFP is a nationally syndicated radio personality on GCN Network and Board Certified Family Physician



Nationally Syndicated Radio Host, Board Certified Family Medicine Physician, Assistant Professor Touro University Nevada

One thought on “Left us too early: Celebrities who have died of heart complications

  1. I wonder if anyone is studying the correlation to these people, especially those who died in their 50s-early 70s and gray hair (in other words, could science and statistics seen this coming? The recent news that links gray hair with heart disease opens up this topic for discussion.

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