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6 Celebrities Who Prove Heart Disease Can Hit Anybody

celebs with heart disease
Stephen Lovekin / Cameron Spencer / Jamie McCarthy, Getty Images

In the words of Star Jones, most of us probably think heart disease is “an old white dude’s disease.” With this logic, then shouldn’t be surprised that Larry King, Dick Cheney, Regis Philbin and David Letterman have all suffered from some form of heart disease. But cardiovascular disease doesn’t just affect older men. It is the No. 1 cause of death among both men and women in the United States, and it can occur at any age.

These six celebrities prove that heart disease affects people of all ages, races and walks of life:

Star Jones

As a host on ‘The View,’ Star Jones was known for being outspoken, losing a lot of weight, and getting a handle on her health. But despite her new healthy lifestyle, she still experienced heart palpitations, shortness of breath and light-headedness. After thinking these were just side effects of her gastric bypass, she finally talked with her doctor and found out she had heart disease. Jones ended up undergoing open-heart surgery to repair her aortic valve.

Rosie O’Donnell

She’s never been the picture of perfect health, but Rosie O’Donnell also doesn’t fit the stereotypical “Hollywood” description of a heart-attack victim. Of course, heart attacks don’t know about Hollywood, so in August 2012, O’Donnell had one—and she didn’t even know it was happening. She blew off the signs as over-exertion, even as her skin grew clammy and her temperature rose. She just took an aspirin. The next day, her doctor did an EKG and found she had a 99 percent blockage in her artery, a condition known as “the widow maker.” Now, she considers herself lucky that her lack of symptom recognition didn’t cost her her life.

Jennie Garth

One look at Jennie Garth and you know you don’t have to be older or out of shape to be affected by heart disease. She lost her father to heart disease, and, it turns out, the apple may not have fallen too far from the tree. Knowing that genetics play a part in heart disease, Garth visited a cardiologist several years ago. She told ‘Access Hollywood’ the diagnosis in a 2009 interview. “I have a leaky valve,” she said. “And it’s a common thing. A lot of people have it.” The valve lets blood leak when pumping in and out of her heart. She said she could feel it happening: “It’s weird because sometimes, when I’m resting, I can feel a little weird fluttering.” Garth lives an active lifestyle now, but it’s a condition she’ll have to monitor as she ages.

Miley Cyrus

The picture of youthful abandon, Miley Cyrus is probably the last celebrity you would think would be a victim of heart disease. But as she revealed in her autobiography ‘Miles to Go,’ the pop star who can’t and won’t stop has an abnormal heart rate. Cyrus suffers from tachycardia, which is a condition in which her heart beats at a higher rate than normal. If not watched or diagnosed, tachycardia could cause cardiac arrest. For now, though, we don’t have to worry about her too much. Cyrus wrote, “The type of tachycardia I have isn’t dangerous. It won’t hurt me, but it does bother me. There is never a time onstage when I’m not thinking about my heart.”

Shaun White

We just watched him compete in his third Olympics and struggle with course conditions to place fourth, but not many people know that Shaun White has also battled heart problems. White has a genetic defect known as tetralogy of Fallot. The condition affects the way blood flows through the heart, and the snowboarder had to undergo not one but two heart surgeries before his first birthday. The procedures corrected the issue, but the Olympian still has to visit a cardiac specialist regularly to keep an eye on his condition.

Toni Braxton

Toni Braxton is another vibrant and active celebrity who confirms that heart disease can hit anyone. Several years ago she was performing on Broadway when, she says, “I was changing costumes, about to do my big number before intermission, and I’m feeling really lightheaded. I didn’t know what was wrong with me.” Then she fainted. She was rushed to the hospital and it turns out that Braxton was suffering from a heart condition called pericarditis. The condition causes inflammation of the tissue around the heart, causing fluid to accumulate and constrict the heart, making it less able to pump blood properly. The R&B star has recovered from the condition with the use of medications, but she’s scared of how much worse it could have been since she didn’t recognize the symptoms of heart problems.

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