Heart disease and fame

Just because celebrities have the money to hire chefs and personal trainers doesn’t mean they can sidestep heart disease. They may be able to keep fit and healthy, but heart disease is hereditary. If you have a family history of heart disease, it’s important to lower your risk of developing heart disease by exercising, avoiding tobacco and alcohol, and steering clear of unhealthy foods.

Keep reading to learn about celebrities who have fought heart disease.

Former Vice President Dick Cheney has had a long history of heart disease. His health even led to questions about 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 several heart surgeries, including one that implanted a pump to assist his heart. He received a full heart transplant in 2012.

Former CNN interviewer Larry King had 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. In 2011, The Larry King Cardiac Foundation teamed up with So You Think You Can Dance on a campaign that encouraged dance as a form of exercise. 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 had surgery to fix blocked arteries twice. He also underwent quadruple bypass surgery in 2004. He has since lost weight and regained control of his health using a diet of beans, legumes, vegetables, and fruit. He was urged by nutritionists to avoid anything with “a mother and a face.” They said this was 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, so he had the surgery to reroute blood flow and lower his risk for a future heart attack. Letterman encountered no post-surgery complications and returned to host “The Late Show” after only six weeks of recovery.

Actress Elizabeth Taylor died in 2011 at age 79 from heart failure. Heart failure is a common condition: 5 million Americans are living with heart failure. Taylor was diagnosed in 2004. She was able to manage her condition for years. Towards the end of her life, she began to feel its effects more acutely and began using a wheelchair.

Singer Toni Braxton discovered in 2004 that she had high blood pressureand pericarditis, an inflammation of the lining of the heart. Braxton’s case proves that anyone can experience heart disease, even those who are young and otherwise healthy. The singer, who had a massive hit single with “Un-Break My Heart,” now takes a beta-blocker and concentrates on staying fit and active. She also avoids salty and fatty foods, which aggravate her condition.

Although many people believe that heart disease primarily affects men, Walters brought to light the fact that in the United States about the same number of women die of heart disease each year as men. In 2009, Walters sought medical attention after feeling unfamiliar pressure in her chest. Doctors told her that she was at risk for a heart attack and she underwent open-heart surgery to replace her faulty aortic valve. She returned to work only four months later. Walters retired from ABC News and “The View” in 2014 after over 35 years on television.

Reality TV star, Poison guitarist, and 80s bad boy Bret Michaels discovered he had a hole in his heart in 2010 — a condition he shares with about 25 percent of the U.S. population. This condition is known as patent foramen ovale. After having a brain hemorrhage, Michaels endured a mini stroke, also known as a transient ischemic attack (TIA). Doctors attributed the “warning stroke” to his known heart condition. He underwent surgery to repair the hole in his heart in 2011.

The beloved comedian and actor underwent heart surgery in 2009 to replace his aortic valve. He grappled with substance abuse at various points throughout his life and had a family history of heart disease. The Oscar-winning actor appeared on Barbara Walters’ 2011 special on heart disease along with David Letterman, Bill Clinton, and others. Williams committed suicide in 2014 after discovering he had Lewy body dementia.

As these celebrities prove, heart disease does not discriminate. It’s important, especially if you have a history of heart disease, to practice healthy lifestyle changes. Learn more about heart disease, if you’re at risk, and how to recover after a heart attack.