Five Celebrities Who Have Battled Heart Disease
Money, power, drivers, personal assistants at your beck and call … who doesn’t occasionally fantasize about being famous? From the pages of those glossy magazines, it seems like celebrities have it all. And it turns out they really do have it all—even heart disease.
As we near the end of National Heart Health Month, it’s important to remember that no one is immune to heart disease, not even those people staring back at us from the magazine covers. Here are five celebrities who have battled heart disease:
Laughter might be the best medicine, but unfortunately a funny accent and some good jokes won’t be enough to protect your heart. That’s what Robin Williams found out in 2009 when he ended up in the hospital having an aortic valve replacement. After feeling short of breath on a stand-up tour, the then-57-year-old Williams decided to have his heart checked out. Doctors discovered an irregular heartbeat and determined he would need to have his aortic valve replaced. Williams later quipped, “I have one new valve and a repaired valve. I have a cow valve and the grazing’s been fun. And I give a good quarter cream, too.”
The legendary actress announced that she suffered from congestive heart failure in 2004. Seven years later, the disease took her life. Heart failure is the inability of the heart to pump enough blood to the rest of the body. Four hundred thousand people are diagnosed with the disease every year. While heart failure can be genetic, it can also be worsened by weight struggles, alcohol abuse or the use of chronic pain medication, all of which can stress and weaken the heart. This screen star and activist unfortunately suffered from all of these throughout her life.
When most people think of heart disease, the image of a fit, young Olympic gold medalist isn’t the first thing that pops up. But age and lifestyle aren’t the only contributors to the heart’s health. The “Flying Tomato” was born with a congenital heart defect called tetralogy of fallot, in which the heart has four abnormalities. Before he was 5 years old, White underwent two open-heart surgeries to correct his condition. Sometimes the struggle can inspire a person to great things. White has always felt propelled forward with the determination to overcome, saying, “I’ve always had this fight, since I can’t even remember.”
Young working mothers have all sorts of stress in their lives, especially when they’re also international superstars. But few 30-somethings figure that their exhaustion and shortness of breath might be a sign of a more serious ailment than overwork. It wasn’t until Toni Braxton literally passed out onstage during a production of ‘Aida’ that the singer realized something was seriously wrong. After being rushed to the hospital, doctors diagnosed her with pericarditis, a severe condition where the covering around the heart becomes inflamed. This condition can be caused by an infection, or can accompany another disease such as cancer or kidney failure. After treatment and a year of medication, Braxton was able to un-break her heart, but she still takes special care to eat healthy and exercise to keep her heart strong.
When a star is young and pretty, the focus is usually on changes to her hairstyle, not changes to her heartbeat. Miley Cyrus can’t help but be aware of both. She was born with tachycardia, which means that her heart beats faster than the average adult’s. While this heart ailment is sometimes benign, it can also cause complications and increase the risk of stroke or sudden heart failure. The condition can be worsened by the use of stimulants and by stress, something familiar to most young pop superstars. Cyrus said, “There is never a time onstage when I’m not thinking about my heart.”