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Did Drug Addiction Boost Carrie Fisher's Heart Risk?

Did Drug Addiction Boost Carrie Fisher's Heart Risk?

(Copyright AP)

By    |   Tuesday, 27 December 2016 05:36 PM

Actress Carrie Fisher’s death from a heart attack is a cautionary tale about the ways that long-term drug addiction can take a lasting toll on cardiovascular health, several of the nation’s leading doctors suggest.

Fisher, who played Princess Leia in the original "Star Wars," died Tuesday after reportedly suffering a heart attack aboard a flight on Friday. She was 60.

Fisher, who had been hospitalized since Friday, when paramedics responded to a patient in distress at Los Angeles International Airport, had long been open about her struggles with drug addiction.

She acknowledged taking drugs like LSD and Percodan throughout the 1970s and ’80s and admitted that she was using cocaine while making the Star Wars sequel “The Empire Strikes Back.”

In 1985, after filming a role in Woody Allen’s “Hannah and Her Sisters,” she had a nearly fatal drug overdose. She had her stomach pumped and checked herself into a 30-day rehab program in Los Angeles. She also later disclosed that she suffered from bipolar disorder.

She turned her experiences with addiction and mental illness into a hit film, popular stage performances, and her caustic, comic bestselling novel “Postcards From the Edge.” The book’s chapters are variously presented as letters, diary entries, monologues and third-person narratives.

Dr. Reef Karim, a well-known addiction medicine expert and director of The Control Center in Beverly Hills, tells Newsmax Health that the heart muscle can definitely suffer residual damage after cocaine use.

“Cocaine use can cause long term cardiovascular problems that can be acute such as arrhythmias or irregularities on how the blood is pumped throughout the body,” Karim notes.

“That’s why former addicts need close follow up with an internist and cardiologist even after they stop using. Hopefully she did that, but you never can be certain. ”

Dr. Gabe Mirkin agrees.

“Cocaine use definitely can cause long term muscle damage to the heart muscle,” the author of “The Healthy Heart Miracle,” tells Newsmax Health. “It also raises blood pressure even after you stop using the drug.”

Mirkin points out that Fisher has lost and gained weight frequently over the years, which increased her risk of cardiovascular disease.

“She also complained about being forgetful the last couple of years which could be an early sign of dementia, another residual effect of drug abuse,” he says.

Dr. Harvey Kramer, director of cardiovascular disease prevention at Danbury Hospital and co-author of “The Women’s Guide to Heart Attack Recovery,” explained that drugs and alcohol abuse can not only cause cardiovascular problems, but exacerbate any pre-existing conditions a person may have.

“Alcohol in excess can increase the risk of heart attack and also heart damage from weakening the heart muscle…and if you have pre-existing condition of damage [it] increases the risk of your heart attack,” he says.

“Cocaine especially can cause heart attack — even if you’re [in your] 20s or 30s. So if she used a drug like cocaine that caused heart muscle damage when her next heart attack comes along she has less heart muscle to begin with.”

Fisher’s daughter, Billie Lourd, released a statement through her spokesman announcing Fisher's death.

"It is with a very deep sadness that Billie Lourd confirms that her beloved mother Carrie Fisher passed away at 8:55 this morning," read the statement from publicist Simon Halls. "She was loved by the world and she will be missed profoundly."

Charlotte Libov contributed to this report.

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Carrie Fisher's death from a heart attack is a cautionary tale about the ways that drug addiction can take a lasting toll on cardiovascular health, according to several of the nation's leading doctors.
carrie, fisher, heart, attack, death, drug, use
Tuesday, 27 December 2016 05:36 PM
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