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John Hughes Dies of Heart Attack at Age 59: Would You Know Symptoms?

Posted Aug 27 2009 11:36pm

Writer-director John Hughes, famous for a string of “brat pack” film successes in the 1980s and ’90s, died yesterday of a heart attack while taking a morning walk in Manhattan.  He was in New York visiting family according to a statement by a spokesperson. iStock_000005421345Small

Besides directing several acclaimed coming-of-age films, such as “The Breakfast Club,” “Ferris Bueller’s Day Off,” and “Sixteen Candles,” Hughes wrote dozens of screenplays including the original “Home Alone,” its sequels, and “Planes, Trains, and Automobiles.”

There is no word yet about whether he had obvious symptoms of heart disease.   According to the American Heart Association (AHA), warning signs include:

  • Chest discomfort. Most heart attacks involve discomfort in the center of the chest that lasts more than a few minutes, or that goes away and comes back. It can feel like uncomfortable pressure, squeezing, fullness or pain.
  • Discomfort in other areas of the upper body. Symptoms can include pain or discomfort in one or both arms, the back, neck, jaw or stomach.
  • Shortness of breath with or without chest discomfort.
  • Other signs may include breaking out in a cold sweat, nausea or lightheadedness

The AHA points out that chest pain or discomfort is the most common symptom for both men and women, but women are more likely than men to experience shortness of breath, nausea/vomiting, and back or jaw pain.  The organization also cautions that “Even if you’re not sure it’s a heart attack, …tell a doctor about your symptoms.”

The group emphasizes that “Minutes matter!” with a heart attack.  “Don’t wait more than five minutes to call 9-1-1.”

People can seem perfectly healthy but suffer a heart attack because of blocked arteries. Last year renowned television journalist Tim Russert died of a heart attack at age 58.  Marathoner Jim Fixx’s death at age 52 also brought attention to this health problem. Russert had been diagnosed with heart disease before his sudden death and Jim Fixx had a family history of the condition, which can be an important factor with heart disease.

A healthy lifestyle is the key defense against heart attack, the AHA recommends “heart-healthy nutrition, daily physical activity, eliminating tobacco, controlling diabetes and a commitment to follow your healthcare professional’s recommendations.”  That includes getting any recommended tests, such as those for cholesterol and high blood pressure. Having high blood total cholesterol, a low HDL, high blood pressure, and smoking are the leading predictors of heart disease.

For more information on preventing a heart attack or other useful information about this condition visit the AHA website at www.americanheart.org.

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