Carrie Fisher Heart Attack: ‘Star Wars’ Princess Leia Actress Death Shows Reality Of Heart Disease Among Women

The Carrie Fisher heart attack – as well as the resulting death of the well-known Star Wars actress – calls attention to the reality of heart disease among women in the United States. As reported by ABC News, there is a popular misconception that heart disease and heart attacks are things that only men need to worry about. But the truth is, women are actually at slightly higher risk of dying from heart disease than men.

Carrie Fisher in 'Star Wars.' Carrie Fisher heart attack serves as a warning to women.
Carrie Fisher in 'Star Wars.' Carrie Fisher heart attack serves as a warning to women. [Image by Lucasfilm]

The Death Of Carrie Fisher

Heart attack deaths are sometimes preceded by symptoms and other indications, but in the case of Carrie Fisher, there were apparently no prior red flags or medical issues that suggested she might be facing an impending heart attack. The first indication was the heart attack itself, which she suffered on board a flight from London to Los Angeles.

Because of the efforts made by individuals on the plane – and by EMTs once the plane landed – Fisher did make it to the UCLA hospital and was said to be in stable condition. Unfortunately, she lost the battle in the coming days.

Of course, it is well-known that Carrie Fisher didn’t live what could be called a healthy lifestyle. Fisher not only smoked – and engaged in illicit drug activity during her early years – she also put on a good deal of weight in her later years. All of these external factors can contribute to developing heart disease and – ultimately – a heart attack.

Carrie Fisher with Storm Trooper. Did lifestyle cause Carrie Fisher heart attack?
Carrie Fisher with Storm Trooper. Did lifestyle cause Carrie Fisher heart attack? [Image by Chris Jackson/Getty Images)

Carrie Fisher Heart Attack Lessons

Despite what some people expect, heart disease is common in both men and women. As a matter of fact, statistics show that the heart attack mortality rate for women in the United States is actually higher than it is for men. One quarter of women who died in 2013 did so – either directly or indirectly – because of heart disease.

The CDC says that two out of three women who die as a consequence of heart disease like Carrie Fisher experienced no symptoms before their heart attack – which makes preventing these deaths challenging. Even worse, almost half of all women do not know that the principal health risk they face in their lives is heart disease.

Another problem is that it’s often more difficult to recognize and diagnose heart disease in women than it is in men. The traditional symptoms associated with a heart attack – such as shortness of breath and severe chest pain – is actually far more likely in a man than a woman.

Women suffering a heart attack will frequently display other signs, such as back pain, nausea, and flu-like symptoms. In fact, many women experiencing a heart attack don’t realize that they are having one.

Addressing Heart Attack Risk Factors

While the Carrie Fisher heart attack symptoms might have differed from those of a man, the heart attack risk factors are identical in men and women. Some of these risk factors are things that we can control, while some are not.

Obviously, if heart attack deaths are common in your family and you have a genetic predisposition for heart disease, there’s not much you can do to change this. All you can do to address this risk factor is to be vigilant and undergo the age-appropriate heart disease screening tests recommended by your doctor.

Carrie Fisher and Harrison Ford in 'The Force Awakens.' Carrie Fisher heart attack may impact later films.
Carrie Fisher and Harrison Ford in 'The Force Awakens.' Carrie Fisher heart attack may impact later films. [Image by Lucasfilm]

Other risk factors – some of which may have resulted in the Carrie Fisher heart attack – include high cholesterol levels, high blood pressure, obesity, smoking, and diabetes. Fisher in the later years of her life had weight problems and apparently continued smoking right up to the end. Certainly, it seems that Carrie Fisher didn’t do what she should have to reduce her chance of having a heart attack.

[Featured Image by Ethan Miller/Getty Images]