Game of Thrones actor Neil Fingleton died Sunday from heart failure. He was only 36-years-old, so one would think a man that age would be relatively healthy. As Britain’s tallest man and weighing close to 400 pounds, did his size play a role in his death, or was something else involved?
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A quick search of “Neil Fingleton size” on Google reveals the actor was seven feet, eight inches tall and he weighed 370 pounds. According to the Sun, his height specifically was at seven feet and 7.56 inches.
Although he played one on Game of Thrones, Neil was not considered a giant in real life, like actor and wrestler Andre the Giant, who at the age of 22 found out he was afflicted with Giantism, meaning his body would continue to grow long after it was supposed to have stopped. Andre was shorter than Fingleton at seven feet four inches, but the giant had about 150 pounds on him. Andre Rene Roussimoff died in 1993 at the age of 46 from heart failure. Heart problems are a known malady for those with Giantism.
Heart failure, also known as cardiac failure, congestive heart failure (CHF for short) “is a condition in which the heart can’t pump enough blood to meet the body’s needs,” according to Medline Plus. It is commonly misconceived that heart failure and a heart attack are the same things, but they’re not. A heart attack is caused by a disruption of blood flow to the heart, while heart failure, or sudden cardiac arrest, is “electrical” in nature, i.e. it happens when there’s a problem with heart rhythm.
There are many causes of heart failure. Some involve pre-existing conditions such as pulmonary embolism and problems with heartbeat rhythm. Heart failure in the young seems to happen to athletes more than non-athletes. According to WebMD, “1 in 100,000 to 1 in 300,000 athletes under age 35” die of heart failure and males are more at risk than females.
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Fingleton, in addition to being an actor, was a professional basketball player, so perhaps that somehow played a part in the heart failure that resulted in his untimely death.
The primary though uncommon cause of heart failure in adult-aged athletes is hypertrophic cardiomyopathy (HCM for short). This is a latent medical condition in which irregular thickening of the heart muscle occurs. HCM may hinder the heart’s blood supply by preventing blood from getting to all parts of the heart.
Another cause of premature heart failure is a condition known as Marfan syndrome, of which the affected, like Neil Fingleton, are tall and slim.
“Marfan syndrome is caused by a change in the gene that controls how the body makes fibrillin, an essential component of connective tissue that contributes to its strength and elasticity.”
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Marfan syndrome is congenital and largely genetic. Although people are born with it, it is not always diagnosable right away, as many don’t find out they have it until their teen years, and sometimes even later than that. It can lead to heart failure because without adequate fibrillin to make connective tissue that’s durable and healthy, lacerations of blood vessels can occur. A rip in the aorta, for example, could prove detrimental.
It’s unknown if Fingleton had Marfan syndrome; if he did, he didn’t go public with it. However, since tall people with slim builds are affected by it and it can lead to heart failure, it makes sense based on what we know.
Game of Thrones actor Neil Fingleton’s character Mag the Mighty was killed during a battle between the Wildlings (Mag the Mighty’s side) and Night’s Watch in the second-to-last episode of Season 4, so the show’s producers will not have to replace him. As he also starred in multiple movies, he’ll be immortalized by the art of acting and remembered through the characters he played.
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