Thursday, July 2, 2009

Billy Mays: attention to the warning signs of heart disease for military veterans and civilians

Earlier today, Hillsborough County (Tampa, FL) Medical Examiner Dr. Vern Adams, completed a press briefing on the preliminary findings of Billy May’s autopsy results.

They are as follows:
“The autopsy done this morning reveals no evidence of head trauma or drug abuse; There had been speculation that Mays might have been injured during a hard landing at Tampa International Airport Saturday but that was ruled out as well as pulmonary embolism (blood clot/lungs)."

What was found:

Hardening of the arteries and heart weight of >500 grams indicative of hypertensive heart disease and left ventricular enlargement.

Although Mr. Mays was prescrbed two different pain medications for hip pain (he was scheduled to have hip replacement surgery today), they were not considered a factor in his death although routine toxicology reports were ordered. Cause of death is being withheld until all the reports and studies are in.

Heart Disease Discussion:

What is Heart Disease?

An enlarged heart may be caused by a thickening of the heart muscle because of increased workload. (This increased workload can be due to heart valve disease or high blood pressure, for example.) This is called hypertrophy (hi-PER'tro-fe), which refers to enlargement of an organ or tissue due to an increase in cell size.

Left ventricular hypertrophy (LVH) is the medical term for enlargement of the left ventricle. (The left ventricle is the heart's main pumping chamber.)

In some people, an enlarged heart causes no signs or symptoms. Others may have these enlarged heart symptoms:

Breathing difficulties
Shortness of breath
Abnormal heart rhythm (arrhythmia)
Swelling (edema)

Heart Disease in Military Veterans

From the department of Veteran’s Affairs: HealthierUS Veterans

“Heart disease is the leading cause of death in the United States and is a major cause of disability. Almost 700,000 people die of heart disease in the U.S. each year. Heart disease is a term that includes several types of heart conditions.Coronary heart disease (CHD) is also called coronary artery disease (CAD), is the most common type of heart disease. CHD develops when one or more of the coronary arteries (arteries that supply blood to the heart muscles itself) becomes narrow. This results from a buildup of cholesterol. This buildup decreases the blood flow to the heart muscle.”

There is a close associate between PTSD and Heart Disease. This has been demonstrated over years of studies on Vietnam era veterans and now on veterans of the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq.

In the July/August 2008 issue of Psychosomatic Medicine, A Prospective Study of PTSD and Early-Age Heart Disease Mortality Among Vietnam Veterans reports that having PTSD "significantly raises the risk of premature death from heart disease...[being] roughly twice as likely to die from heart disease during follow up as veterans without PTSD."

The study was based on data collected in 1985 and 1986 from a sample of 4,328 men who served in the U.S. Army from 1965 to 1971 found a direct correlation between PTSD, heart disease and cardiac death. The study sample included 2,409 individuals who were sent to Vietnam; all study participants completed a telephone questionnaire, and a random subsample was given extensive physical examinations at baseline. The researchers also controlled for family history of heart disease, smoking, obesity, and diabetes. By the completion of follow-up in 2000, 52 of the veterans in the total sample had died of a heart attack, chronic ischemic heart disease, atherosclerotic disease, hypertensive heart disease, or heart failure.

An unrelated study, based on the 2001 National Survey of Veterans and published in the September Military Medicine, found that veterans under age 60 who served in Vietnam had worse self-reported health and higher rates of stroke than those who served elsewhere during that time. Vietnam veterans older than 60 had poor self-rated health and a higher risk for cancer than their peers.

Other Resources Relevant To Military, Veterans and the Civilian Population.

Excellent pdf 2 page patient information sheet on Heart Disease from the Journal of the American Medical Association. (w/translation link for Spanish version). Enlarged Heart


Heart Disease: from [Accessed 29 June 2009]

Heart Anatomy:

See also: Mayo Clinic:
Billy Mays: attention to the warning signs of heart disease for military veterans and civilians

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