Legendary golfer Arnold Palmer died Sunday due to complications from heart disease, an illness that dogged him in his later years.
Palmer, 87, died at University of Pittsburgh Medical Center Shadyside in Pittsburgh, where he had been hospitalized since Thursday, but his condition had steadily weakened, news reports say.
He had been scheduled for heart surgery Monday morning, the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette reported.
Palmer had been failing health since the fall of 2015 and last month underwent surgery to stop bleeding in his colon, Golf Digest reported.
He made his last real public appearance on the first tee of the 2016 Masters, joining Nicklaus and long-time friend Gary Player for the ceremonial opening tee shots, but did not hit a drive, the article noted.
Palmer was a nearly 20-year prostate cancer survivor who did enjoy many years of robust health after surgery for that disease. But in 2012 it was becoming obvious that he was dealing with cardiovascular problems.
He was hospitalized for high blood pressure, causing him to miss greeting Tiger Woods, who had won just won Bay Hill.
Heart disease, the nation's No. 1 killer, causes 25 percent – almost one in every four – of all U.S. deaths. Coronary heart disease, in which the heart’s arteries become narrowed and clogged, is the most common type of heart disease.
Coronary heart disease can also lead to an irregular heartbeat, and, in 2014, Palmer underwent the implantation of a pacemaker, Golf Digest reported.
In an interview shortly after that surgery, Palmer said, "I'm fine, and I'm continuing to feel better...although I have a hole in my chest and it itches.”
But, in that interview, Palmer, who was unfailingly upbeat about his health, also planned to golf. He'd had the pacemaker implanted further up than it usually is done so it wouldn’t interfere with his swing, he explained.
Although Palmer preferred to focus on his message about beating prostate cancer with early detection, he did acknowledge he took blood pressure pills daily, as well as a blood thinner, which he attributed to a bout with deep vein thrombosis, he said in a 2015 interview.
Deep vein thrombosis is linked with coronary heart disease.
But in an interview this spring, in which he discussed his prostate cancer, he also chatted about his heart-healthy diet, which included exercise and avoiding junk food.
But he also made mention of another habit that could have set the stage for his heart disease – in his early years, he had been a habitual smoker.
“I smoked short of l5 years; a pack or two a day,” Palmer said, but he quit when the 1964 Surgeon General's report linking smoking to lung cancer came out. “When l quit, it was very hard,” he said.
Heart disease can also have its roots in heredity, and Palmer's father, Deacon, had died at the age of 71 of a massive heart attack, after lying down to take a nap following 27 holes of golf. He died upon getting up, before even hitting the floor.
When Palmer was once asked by a fan if he was afraid of dying, the Post-Gazette quoted what he had written in his book, “A Golfer’s Life."
In the book, he wrote, “No…I’m not particularly afraid of dying, as long as I go the way my father did.”
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