Celebrities and their heart problems
Around 2.3 million people in the UK live with coronary heart disease, yet it remains a condition that is often misunderstood.
Age, genes and lifestyle can all play their part but if you assume heart disease only affects overweight old men, these celebrity sufferers could help prove otherwise.
The Star Wars star’s untimely death on 30 December 2016 was widely considered to be the result of chronic drug addiction. Yet the actress was also living with heart disease and died several days after suffering a cardiac event on a long-haul flight.
However, the exact cause of her death at the age of 60 could not be determined in the coroner’s report – her atherosclerosis may or may not have been a contributing factor. And while drugs can have a harmful effect on the heart, the coroner was not able to establish whether Fisher’s addiction contributed to her death or was just a tragic coincidence.
George Michael was also suffering from heart disease at the time of his death on Christmas Day 2016. The singer, who was only 53, had dilated cardiomyopathy, a condition in which the heart’s ability to pump blood is decreased.
Chest ache, nausea and clammy skin were the first signs this comedian and actress was having a heart attack in 2012, although she didn’t believe it at the time. ‘I googled ‘women’s heart attack symptoms’. I had many of them but I thought, nah,’ she wrote later in her blog.
O’Donnell, 55, took an aspirin and was later told by her doctor she’d suffered a serious heart attack known as ‘the widow maker’ – causing a 99% blockage in one of her arteries – and was lucky to be alive.
The famous singer died very young from a heart attack at the age of 42. Although his weight may have made him appear a classic victim of heart disease, new DNA evidence emerged in 2014 suggesting Elvis may have suffered from a genetic heart muscle disease called hypertrophic cardiomyopathy, making him more prone to a heart attack.
Grammy award winner Toni Braxton was only 37 when she discovered she had high blood pressure and an inflammation of the heart (pericarditis). But she changed her lifestyle after her diagnosis, calling herself ‘the poster girl for heart disease’. The Unbreak My Heart singer, now 49, takes beta-blockers, avoids salt and fat, and keeps fit.
The actor, who appeared in Uncle Buck and Planes, Trains and Automobiles, died at 43 from a heart attack. While his weight may have been a contributing factor, heart disease was already in his family – both his father and grandfather died from heart disease, which means he may have been more at risk himself.
Hollywood legend Elizabeth Taylor was diagnosed with heart failure in 2004. Heart failure means the heart cannot pump blood properly around the body and becomes more common as we get older. Although she managed her condition for a number of years, it was the cause of her death in 2011 at the age of 79.
The youngest celebrity on our list, the 24-year-old pop star has tachycardia, a condition that is not life-threatening but causes her resting heart rhythm to exceed the normal range.
Elton had a pacemaker fitted back in 1999 after tests revealed he had an irregular heartbeat. It was replaced in 2009, leaving Elton feeling like ‘a turbo bunny’.
Although she doesn’t suffer from heart problems herself, the singer wanted to raise awareness of how many women are dying from heart disease after her mother Diana was diagnosed at the age of 81. As a result, she set up the Women’s Heart Alliance in the US to help educate women about the symptoms they should be looking out for.
Whereas men may experience the classic chest pains as the first sign of a heart attack, women may be more likely to suffer from nausea, backaches, extreme fatigue or shortness of breath. This can mean they don’t get the right medical help they need.
The former US president has lived with heart disease for many years; he had a quadruple coronary bypass in 2004 and surgery to remove a clogged artery in 2010. Clinton says his current good health is down to weight loss, a vegan diet and plenty of exercise.
All ages and statuses correct at time of writing, August 2017.