Taking News of Celebrity Deaths to Heart

Premier Health Now

The loss of two pop icons two days apart — actress Carrie Fisher and singer George Michael — has left a hole in many fans’ hearts. Especially at this time of year.

And the news that heart disease had a role in both stars’ deaths hits close to home: Heart disease can affect anyone. 

What else can we learn from this for our and our loved one’s health? We talked with Mukul Chandra, MD, of Miami Valley Cardiologists, for his thoughts.

“About a quarter of a million people die each year of a sudden cardiac event,” he says. Dr. Chandra doesn’t know the details of Carrie Fisher’s and George Michael’s cases. But sudden cardiac arrests typically involve what he describes to his patients as “pumping,” “plumbing” or “electrical” issues:

  • Pumping: A sudden failure of the heart muscle from heart enlargement due to a variety of causes, including high blood pressure and heart attacks.
  • Plumbing: Narrowing of the arteries or a blood clot in the coronary arteries that interrupts blood flow to the heart, causing a heart attack
  • Electrical: An irregular heart rhythm, called ventricular fibrillation, in the lower chambers of the heart 

And Dr. Chandra has good news for the holidays and any time of year: “Eighty percent of heart disease deaths are preventable if you control the risk factors, such as blood pressure, cholesterol, obesity and diabetes.”  Where to start? 

See your family doctor, he recommends, to monitor your health and help you find ways to protect your heart. For instance, he recommends a nutritious diet, weight control, exercise, stress management and controlling risk factors. People with a family history of early heart disease should be particularly careful.

Another take away, he says: “Everyone should know CPR.” That is, cardiopulmonary resuscitation. A medic on board the flight in which Carrie Fisher suffered a heart attack administered CPR before paramedics arrived to take her to the hospital. 

Another note about heart-related deaths: They’re about five percent more likely around Christmas and New Year’s, research studies show. Stress, lack of exercise and excess food and alcohol consumption contribute. And the risk is greater if you have high blood pressure.