Maya Angelou was an American poet, author, actress, singer, and civil rights activist who made a huge impact on the world. She was known for her powerful and inspirational words, her refusal to back down in the face of adversity and her incredible talent to connect with people. She was a true icon and her passing in 2014 was mourned around the world. But what exactly caused her passing?
When Angelou died on the 28th May 2014 at the age of 86, her family did not release an exact cause of death. However, an autopsy following her death showed that she died of “natural causes” as she had suffered from a number of different health issues in the preceding years. Those issues included an ongoing battle with heart disease, which most likely was the root cause of her death.
Angelou had also been diagnosed with type 2 diabetes in 2009, and this had put a considerable strain on her body, even though she was managing the condition well. Her diabetes was, however, likely a contributing factor to her death. Furthermore, it is known that she had a long-standing battle with hypertension, which also likely had an effect on her health.
When facing an issue with such a complex combination of health issues, a person’s general wellness can be affected in a big way. This was the case for Angelou, who despite managing to stay active and write, was prone to bouts of exhaustion. Her long-term struggle with health issues may have simply taken their toll and eventually caused her passing.
One thing is clear: Maya Angelou was a trailblazer and an inspiration to many, and her passing was felt around the world. Although her death was sad, we can take solace in the fact that her legacy will continue to be a source of upliftment and strength for years to come.
What is Heart Disease?
Heart disease is a very general term used to describe any type of disorder or damage to the heart. It can encompass a wide range of conditions that affect the heart and its ability to function properly. Some examples of heart disease include coronary artery disease, heart failure, cardiomyopathy, heart valve disease, and congenital heart defects, among others.
Coronary artery disease is the most common type of heart disease and is caused by a narrowing of the coronary arteries. This narrowing slows down the flow of oxygen-rich blood from reaching the heart, resulting in chest pain (angina). If left untreated, a heart attack can occur. Heart valve disease is another common form, which can cause valve dysfunction, leading to symptoms including shortness of breath, tiredness, and swelling of the legs.
Cardiomyopathy is another form of heart disease and is a condition in which the heart muscle becomes weakened or damaged, often leading to heart failure or an irregular heartbeat (arrhythmia). Congenital heart defects, on the other hand, are present at birth and can include a variety of defects in the heart structure or the coronary arteries.
In general, heart disease can be managed through lifestyle changes such as diet and exercise, as well as through medical treatments such as lifestyle or pharmacological therapies.
How Does Heart Disease Develop?
Heart disease typically develops over time, due to a combination of risk factors, many of which are lifestyle choices including tobacco use, an unhealthy diet, obesity, lack of physical activity, and a sedentary lifestyle. Other risk factors include age, gender, race, family history, and certain medical conditions, such as high blood pressure, high cholesterol, and diabetes.
Cigarette smoking is by far the most important preventable risk factor for heart disease. In fact, it increases the risk of coronary artery disease by two to four times. Similarly, an unhealthy diet that is high in saturated fat and cholesterol can increase the risk of heart disease. Eating a healthy diet rich in fruits and vegetables, while limiting processed and sugary foods, can help to protect the heart.
Similarly, exercise is incredibly important for overall health, but it also plays an important role in reducing the risk of heart disease. Exercise can improve cardiovascular health, lower blood cholesterol levels, and help to maintain a healthy weight. It can also help to reduce stress, which can cause a rise in adrenaline and trigger heart symptoms.
Finally, taking steps to reduce stress and manage emotional health is also a key factor in preventing heart disease. Stress can lead to poor sleeping habits, poor eating habits, and an unhealthy lifestyle, which can contribute to heart disease. Making time for leisure activities, stress-reducing activities, and staying socially connected are all important steps toward managing heart health.
What Complications Can Heart Disease Cause?
In some cases, heart disease can have serious complications, which can have a long-term impact on an individual’s health and quality of life. Unmanaged or undiagnosed heart disease can cause congestive heart failure, which can lead to an inability to pump enough blood and oxygen to the rest of the body. This can cause damage to organs and impair their ability to function, which can lead to lifestyle changes and limited life expectancy.
In addition, undiagnosed heart disease can cause irregular heartbeats (arrhythmias) which can be dangerous if left untreated. Sudden cardiac death, which is an unexpected death due to a heart-related event, is also a possible complication of undiagnosed heart disease. The risk of sudden cardiac death increases if the heart is damaged from blocked arteries from coronary artery disease.
Heart disease can also contribute to heart attack and stroke with long-term consequences, such as disability and loss of mobility. The risk of these events increases with age, but they can occur at any age, especially if heart disease is left untreated. Heart disease can also cause loss of blood flow, which can cause blood clots, arrhythmias, and even death.
What Treatments Are Available?
The good news is that there are a number of treatments available that can help to manage and even reverse the effects of heart disease. Treatment plans typically include lifestyle changes such as healthy eating and regular exercise, as well as medications and/or surgery. Making these changes can help to reduce the risk of a heart attack and stroke, and even reverse the progression of the disease.
Medications are often prescribed to help manage heart disease. These include cholesterol-lowering medications, such as statins, blood thinners, and medications that control blood pressure and heart rate. In addition, beta blockers, ACE inhibitors, and angiotensin receptor blockers can be prescribed to help reduce the risk of a heart attack and stroke.
In some cases, surgery may be necessary to treat coronary artery disease. Coronary artery bypass grafting, coronary artery stenting, percutaneous coronary intervention, and angioplasty are some of the commonly used procedures. All of these procedures help to increase the blood flow to the heart, reducing the risk of a heart attack or stroke.
Finally, for some people living with heart disease, an implantable cardioverter defibrillator (ICD) may be necessary to prevent sudden cardiac death. These devices are implanted in the chest and monitor the heart’s rhythm, delivering a shock if a dangerous arrhythmia is detected.
Prevention of Heart Disease
The most important step in preventing heart disease is to make lifestyle changes. Eating a healthy diet that is low in saturated and trans fats, regular physical activity, not smoking, and managing stress are all important steps. In addition, maintaining a healthy weight, controlling blood pressure and cholesterol levels, and managing diabetes, if diagnosed, can all help reduce the risk of heart disease.
In addition, it is important to get regular medical checkups, as some forms of heart disease may have no warning signs. During these checkups, your doctor may order tests to check for things like cholesterol levels, blood pressure, and other indicators of heart health. If any of these tests come back abnormal, your doctor may recommend lifestyle changes, medications, or other treatments to help manage the condition.
Finally, it is also important to be aware of any family history of heart disease. If you have family members with heart disease, your doctor may recommend certain tests or lifestyle changes to reduce your risk of developing the condition. Knowing your risk factors and taking steps to reduce them can go a long way in preventing heart disease.