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Heart Disease: 17 Celebrities With Heart Problems

The Huffington Post   First Posted: 02/ 7/2012 7:44 am Updated: 02/ 7/2012 7:44 am

In the past few years, celebrities have rallied to promote awareness for heart health -- particularly in women. Cardiovascular disease is still the number one cause of death in the U.S., for both women and men, accounting for one in every three deaths, or 2,200 a day, according to the CDC.

It used to be that A-listers kept health problems hush-hush, but today it seems more have realized their potential for shedding light on illnesses and diseases often left out of the spotlight. Stars from Kim Kardashian to Heidi Klum have modeled red dresses as part of The Heart Truth, a campaign specifically focused on heart disease in women. But other famous faces speak out about their own experiences. The celebrities below have lived with a range of heart problems and can teach us all valuable lessons about putting heart health first.

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  • Rosie O'Donnell

    Last August, the former talk show host <a href="http://abcnews.go.com/blogs/entertainment/2012/10/rosie-odonnell-heart-attack-was-wake-up-call/" target="_hplink">felt chest pains</a> and, after some online research, began to suspect that she was having a heart attack. But she didn't dial 911, according to ABC News. The next day a cardiologist informed her that her <a href="http://watchlearnlive.heart.org/CVML_Player.php?moduleSelect=corart" target="_hplink">coronary artery</a> was 99 percent blocked and <a href="http://www.heart.org/idc/groups/heart-public/@wcm/@hcm/documents/downloadable/ucm_300452.pdf" target="_hplink">put in a stent</a> to keep the blood flowing. O'Donnell wasted no time making healthy lifestyle changes. "<a href="http://www.people.com/people/article/0,,20635664,00.html" target="_hplink">I almost died</a>. It took a heart attack for me to learn to take care of myself," she told People magazine.

  • Star Jones

    The talk show host <a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.com/star-jones/star-jones-heart-disease_b_2566501.html" target="_hplink">underwent heart surgery</a> for a <a href="http://www.nlm.nih.gov/medlineplus/ency/article/007408.htm" target="_hplink">problem with the aortic valve</a> after experiencing extreme fatigue and heart palpitations while on vacation in 2010. Ultimately the valve was replaced a week before her 48th birthday. "You think it's an old white guy's disease, well, it really isn't," <a href="http://www.doctoroz.com/videos/heart-health-star-jones-advice" target="_hplink">Jones explains on Dr. Oz's website</a>. "Eighty two million Americans suffer from some form of heart disease, and I have to tell you, the scariest thing in the world is hearing you are one of those 82 million." Jones served as the National Volunteer for the American Heart Association (AHA) and continues to support the AHA's <a href="http://www.goredforwomen.org/" target="_hplink">Go Red for Women</a> campaign.

  • Barbara Walters

    The legendary TV personality underwent a procedure called <a href="http://abcnews.go.com/Health/HeartDisease/barbara-walters-prepares-aortic-valve-replacement-heart-surgery/story?id=10609251#.TzA6z-PLyK4" target="_hplink">aortic valve replacement</a> to correct a faulty heart valve in 2010. Generally <a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2011/02/02/barbara-walters-heart-special-drugs_n_817330.html" target="_hplink">a private person</a>, Walters opened up about her experience -- and interviewed other famous heart surgery survivors like Bill Clinton and Robin Williams -- in a 2011 ABC special called "A Matter Of Life And Death." "I want to take you on a journey, my own," Walters wrote in a <a href="http://abcnews.go.com/Health/barbara-walters-heart-special-matter-life-death/story?id=12810130#.TzA8m-PLzwe" target="_hplink">promotion for the special</a>, "and share with you how being wheeled into operating room No. 22 at New York-Presbyterian Hospital in May to replace my faulty heart valve saved my life."

  • Bill Clinton

    The former president was treated for chest pain in February of 2011, when doctors placed two stents in a coronary artery. Experts say the procedure is <a href="http://www.time.com/time/health/article/0,8599,1963893,00.html" target="_hplink">common in people who have had bypass surgeries</a>, according to <em>TIME</em>. Clinton had a quadruple bypass in 2004, and a second operation in 2005 in response to complications from the bypass. Today, Clinton has become <a href="http://www.cnn.com/2011/HEALTH/08/18/bill.clinton.diet.vegan/index.html" target="_hplink">almost-vegan</a> (he reportedly snuck a bite of <a href="http://well.blogs.nytimes.com/2011/08/18/bill-clintons-vegan-journey/" target="_hplink">turkey at Thanksgiving</a>) foregoing meat, eggs and dairy in favor of fruits, veggies and beans, according to CNN. "I was lucky I did not die of a heart attack," he told CNN's Sanjay Gupta.

  • Larry King

    The talk-show host had a heart attack in February 1987, and later underwent <a href="http://www.everydayhealth.com/heart-health/larry-king-dances-his-way-to-heart-health.aspx" target="_hplink">quintuple bypass surgery</a> at just 53 years old. The heart attack and consequent procedure were a wake-up call, King said on a PBS panel called <a href="http://www.pbs.org/wgbh/takeonestep/heart/video-larry_king_01.html" target="_hplink">"Take One Step for a Healthy Heart."</a> "When you go into a hospital and they tell you they're going to cut your chest open, you really think about all the dumb things you've done in your life and you have to change," he said. In 1988, the <a href="http://www.larrykingcardiacfoundation.org/index.php/about-us" target="_hplink">Larry King Cardiac Foundation</a> (LKCF) was established to help fund heart treatment for patients without the means or insurance to cover such medical care themselves.

  • Dick Cheney

    After <a href="http://articles.latimes.com/2011/jan/18/news/la-pn-cheney-20110119" target="_hplink">five heart attacks</a>, former Vice President Dick Cheney received a life-saving <a href="http://www.nytimes.com/2011/01/05/us/politics/05cheney.html" target="_hplink">mechanical heart pump</a> in January of 2011. "It's brought me back from <a href="http://www.usatoday.com/news/washington/story/2011-08-31/Taciturn-Cheney-cant-stop-talking-about-heart-device/50196688/1" target="_hplink">end-stage heart failure</a>," Cheney told "USA Today". "I was in bad shape 14 months ago. Now I'm back to leading a relatively normal life. I fish, hunt a little bit, write books, [am] able to travel."

  • David Letterman

    The late-night host's father died of a heart attack at 57, and in January 2000, at just 52, Letterman underwent emergency quintuple bypass surgery, performed by the <a href="http://transcripts.cnn.com/TRANSCRIPTS/0001/14/lkl.00.html" target="_hplink">same surgeon who operated on Larry King</a>, 13 years earlier. He invited <a href="http://www.people.com/people/article/0,,20336885,00.html" target="_hplink">his medical team</a> to appear upon his return to TV in February, and said, emotionally: "If you ever have to have this surgery, by God, I hope you're blessed enough to go through it with people like these," according to People.com.

  • Toni Braxton

    While starring in the Broadway show "Aida," the Grammy winner passed out after feeling tired and lightheaded, with tightness in her chest. In the emergency room she learned she had <a href="http://www.webmd.com/heart-disease/features/unbreak-her-heart-toni-braxton" target="_hplink">pericarditis</a>, inflammation of tissue surrounding the heart often caused by a virus, according to WebMD. Today, the R&B singer takes medication for her <a href="http://www.thedailybeast.com/newsweek/2008/01/21/toni-braxton-heart-disease.html" target="_hplink">high blood pressure</a>, walks on a treadmill and eats salads and soups instead of her favorite salty foods, like burgers with bacon, she told The Daily Beast.

  • Robin Williams

    The comedian was forced to postpone his stand-up tour after experiencing shortness of breath. Doctors found he needed an aortic valve replacement, a procedure that was performed <a href="http://articles.cnn.com/2009-03-23/entertainment/robin.williams.health_1_normal-heart-function-cardiothoracic-surgeon-cleveland-clinic?_s=PM:SHOWBIZ" target="_hplink">successfully at the Cleveland Clinic</a> in Ohio in March 2009. Never one to miss an opportunity for a joke, Williams appeared on Barbara Walters' 2011 special, calling himself and her other guests the <a href="http://abcnews.go.com/Health/barbara-walters-heart-special-matter-life-death/story?id=12810130#.TzA_pOPLzwc" target="_hplink">"Brotherhood of the Cracked Chest Club."</a> "You literally are opened up, and you really do <a href="http://www.people.com/people/article/0,,20295149,00.html" target="_hplink">appreciate the simplest things</a> like breath, and friends," he said at the Television Critics' Association panel in Pasadena, California in July 2009, according to People.com. "I've been calling up all of my friends and saying, 'Thanks for being there.'"

  • Regis Philbin

    The TV host said there was <a href="http://www.reuters.com/article/2007/03/17/people-regis-dc-idUSN1547028620070317" target="_hplink">plaque in some of his arteries</a> that needed to be cleared out on "Live with Regis and Kelly" in March of 2007. He underwent successful <a href="http://www.people.com/people/article/0,,20015027,00.html" target="_hplink">triple bypass surgery</a> later that month at 75. Philbin had a <a href="http://articles.cnn.com/2011-01-18/entertainment/regis.philbin.retiring_1_regis-kathie-lee-daytime-emmys-outstanding-talk-show-host?_s=PM:SHOWBIZ" target="_hplink">hip replacement</a> in 2009 before retiring in 2011 at age 79.

  • Miley Cyrus

    In her 2009 autobiography <a href="http://www.amazon.com/Miles-Go-Miley-Cyrus/dp/1423119924" target="_hplink">"Miles To Go,"</a> the starlet disclosed that she has <a href="http://www.foxnews.com/entertainment/2009/03/10/miley-cyrus-discloses-heart-condition-new-book/" target="_hplink">tachycardia</a>, a heart condition that causes her heart to beat faster than normal. "The type of tachycardia I have <a href="http://articles.nydailynews.com/2009-03-10/gossip/17917786_1_miley-cyrus-hannah-montana-heart-rate" target="_hplink">isn't dangerous</a>. It won't hurt me, but it does bother me. There is never a time onstage when I'm not thinking about my heart," she wrote.

  • Shaun White

    The snowboarder was born with <a href="http://www.nhlbi.nih.gov/health/health-topics/topics/tof/" target="_hplink">tetralogy of Fallot</a>, a congenital heart defect that affects the way blood flows through the heart, according to the National Heart Lung and Blood Institute. White had <a href="http://sportsillustrated.cnn.com/features/siadventure/29/boarding/" target="_hplink">two open-heart surgeries</a> before he was a year old, according to <em>Sports Illustrated</em>, and regularly checks in with a heart doc. <em>Flickr photo by <a href="http://www.flickr.com/photos/anhonorablegerman/6023295703/" target="_hplink">Charles McCain</a></em>

  • Burt Reynolds

    The actor recovered from a planned <a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2010/03/03/burt-reynolds-heart-surge_n_484025.html" target="_hplink">quintuple bypass surgery</a> in 2010 at home, with <a href="http://www.people.com/people/article/0,,20348233,00.html" target="_hplink">round-the-clock nursing care</a>, according to People.com. "He wants to thank everyone for their good wishes and states that he has a great motor with brand new pipes and he is feeling great," a rep said in a statement.

  • Bret Michaels

    After Michaels suffered a mini-stroke in 2010, doctors found <a href="http://www.people.com/people/article/0,,20460416,00.html" target="_hplink">a hole in his heart</a>, which was successfully repaired in 2011. "I am pumped to get <a href="http://www.people.com/people/article/0,,20466958,00.html" target="_hplink">back on the road</a> and start rocking out on stage for all my awesome fans," Michaels told People.com a month later.

  • Jennie Garth

    The actress, who lost her father to heart disease, has what's commonly called a leaky valve, which gives her the feeling that her<a href="http://www.everydayhealth.com/heart-health/jennie-garth.aspx" target="_hplink"> heart is fluttering</a>, she told Everyday Health. While the fluttering doesn't impact her greatly now, <a href="http://today.msnbc.msn.com/id/30950377/ns/today-entertainment/t/jennie-garth-reveals-heart-condition/#.TzBHtePLzwd" target="_hplink">complications may arise</a> as she gets older, she told Access Hollywood.

  • Kelsey Grammer

    After paddle boarding near his Hawaiian home in 2008, the actor was taken to a local hospital, where doctors concluded he had had a <a href="http://abcnews.go.com/Entertainment/HeartDiseaseNews/story?id=4982043&page=1#.TzBLVOPLyK4" target="_hplink">minor heart attack</a>, according to ABC News.

  • Charlie Rose

    In 2002, the talk-show host opted for <a href="http://www.cbsnews.com/stories/2002/08/22/earlyshow/health/main519528.shtml" target="_hplink">open-heart surgery</a> to correct a life-long valve problem, according to CBS, performed by the same surgeon who operated on David Letterman and Larry King. A few years later, after experiencing shortness of breath in Syria, Rose had emergency <a href="http://www.usatoday.com/life/people/2006-03-29-charlie-rose-heart-surgery_x.htm" target="_hplink">mitral valve surgery</a> to correct narrowing of the valve in Paris in 2006, according to the AP.

  • Elizabeth Taylor

    The famed actress was diagnosed with <a href="http://www.webmd.com/heart-disease/heart-failure/news/20110323/actress-elizabeth-taylor-dies-at-79" target="_hplink">congestive heart failure</a> in 2004. She died of the condition, which limits the heart's ability to pump blood around the body, in 2011. While five million Americans are <a href="http://healthland.time.com/2011/03/23/are-you-at-risk-for-congestive-heart-failure/" target="_hplink">living with congestive heart failure</a>, as many as 20 percent die within one year of diagnosis and 50 percent die within five years, according to <em>TIME</em>'s Healthland.

  • Alex Trebek

    The longtime "Jeopardy" host suffered a <a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.com/huff-wires/20071211/alex-trebek/" target="_hplink">minor heart attack</a> in 2007 at age 67, according to the AP.

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