Famous Faces of Heart Disease
Learn about popular people who suffered from this common heart condition.
Heart Disease & Fame
Just because celebrities have the money and resources to hire chefs, employ personal trainers, and buy the necessary equipment doesn’t mean they can sidestep heart disease. Yes, they may be able to keep fit and healthy, but heart disease is hereditary, so even the rich and famous can’t elude a problematic heart. If you have a family history of heart disease, it’s important to exercise, avoid smoking and drinking, and steer clear of unhealthy foods.
Click "next" to learn about celebrities who have fought heart disease.
Former Vice-President Dick Cheney has had a long history of heart disease, to the point where his health raised questions whether he was medically fit to serve in office. He has sustained five heart attacks since the age of 37, when he was a heavy smoker. Cheney underwent four heart surgeries, including one in 2010 that implanted a pump to assist his heart. Cheney’s health remains uncertain, and he is mere steps away from a heart transplant.
CNN interviewer Larry King suffered a heart attack and underwent bypass surgery in 1987. He has since received a plaque from the American College of Cardiology for his humanitarian and charitable work related to heart disease. A long time smoker, King quit the day of his heart attack and has since gotten his risk factors under control.
The former president has twice been forced to have blocked arteries fixed, and underwent quadruple bypass surgery in 2004. He has since lost weight and regained control of his health using a diet made up of beans, legumes, vegetables, and fruit. He was urged by nutritionists to avoid anything with “a mother and a face,” who claimed this to be an effective diet for reversing heart disease and most other chronic diseases.
David Letterman, whose father died of a heart attack at a young age, had quintuple bypass surgery in 2000. An angiogram revealed blockages in his heart, and so he underwent the surgery to reroute blood flow and lower his risk for a future heart attack. Letterman suffered no complications and returned to host The Late Show after only six weeks of recovery.
Photo courtesy of Roland Godefroy (CC BY 3.0).
Actress Elizabeth Taylor died this year at age 79 from congestive heart failure. Her death illustrates how common the disease is—a staggering five million Americans suffer. Diagnosed in 2004, Taylor was able to manage her condition for years, but towards the end of her life began to acutely feel its effects, and had to begin using a wheelchair.
Photo courtesy of Philip Nelson (CC BY-SA 2.0).
Although thin, active, and outwardly healthy-seeming, Toni Braxton discovered four years ago that she suffered from high blood pressure and pericarditis, an inflammation of the lining of the heart. Toni's case proves that anyone can suffer from heart disease—even those who are young and healthy. Toni now takes a beta-blocker, and concentrates on staying fit and active, and avoiding salty and fatty foods, which aggravate her condition.
Photo courtesy of Christopher Peterson (CC BY 2.0)
Although many people believe that heart disease primarily affects men, Barbara brought to light the fact that heart disease-related mortality rates are actually higher among women than men. In 2009, Barbara sought medical attention after feeling unfamiliar pressure in her chest, and was told by doctors that she may die suddenly from a heart attack. She underwent open-heart surgery to replace her faulty aortic valve. Barbara was back to work four months later and has shown no signs of slowing down.
The comedian and actor underwent heart surgery in 2009 to replace his aortic valve. He suffered from alcoholism and had a family history of heart disease, but emerged safely from his surgery. Williams appeared on Barbara Walters’ 2011 special on heart disease along with David Letterman, Bill Clinton, and others.