Heart Disease Killed Billy Mays

Preliminary results of an autopsy performed on adman Billy Mays revealed that he likely died from heart disease. According to Hillsborough County Medical Examiner Dr. Vernard Adams, Mays “had an enlarged heart, a thickening of the wall of the ventricle which takes blood to the heart” consistent with “hypertensive and arteriosclerotic disease of the heart.” Although Mays was taking prescription pain medication after having hip replacement surgery, those pills did not contribute to his death. Dr. Adams also stated that there was no evidence to suspect head injury as a cause of death. A final report will not be ready for several weeks.

Some facts about Hypertension (High Blood Pressure) and Heart Disease:

Nearly one in three American’s have high blood pressure, and about a third of those people have no idea they have it. High blood pressure can go on for years before any symptoms may show up. This is why high blood pressure is often called the “Silent Killer.”

High blood pressure increases the heart’s workload. Over time, this increase can cause the heart muscle to thicken. As the heart pumps against elevated pressure in the blood vessels, the left ventricle becomes enlarged and the amount of blood pumped by the heart each minute (cardiac output) goes down. Without treatment, symptoms of congestive heart failure may develop.

High blood pressure is the most common risk factor for heart disease and stroke. It can cause ischemic heart disease (decreased blood to the heart muscle that results in chest pain-angina) from the increased supply of oxygen needed by the thicker heart muscle.

High blood pressure also contributes to thickening of the blood vessel walls. This, in turn, may worsen artherosclerosis (increased cholesterol deposits in the blood vessels). This also increases the risk of heart attacks and stroke.

Hypertensive heart disease is the leading cause of illness and death from high blood pressure.


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Mark Boguski, M.D., Ph.D. is on the faculty of Harvard Medical School and is a member of the Society for Participatory Medicine, "a movement in which networked patients shift from being mere passengers to responsible drivers of their health" and in which professional health care providers encourage "empowered patients" and value them as full partners in managing their health and wellness.

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