In April, we compiled a list of celebrities who, because of obesity related health issues, left us too soon. Yesterday, actor James Gandolfini passed away in Italy of a myocardial infarction, at the young age of 51. More commonly known as a heart attack, a myocardial infarction occurs when blood flow to the heart is blocked, causing damage to the heart muscle.
James Gandolfini had a name and face synonymous with Tony Soprano, the New Jersey mafia boss he brought to life in the seminal HBO series “The Sopranos.” Like Soprano, Gandolfini was an Italian from New Jersey, but couldn’t have been more dissimilar than his famously violent character. As a meticulous and obsessively dedicated actor and director, he liked to describe himself as “a 260-pound Woody Allen.”
Given that weight, paired with a listed height of 6′ 1”, Gandolfini would have had a BMI of 34.3, putting him well into the obese category. Just this week, the American Medical Association declared obesity as a disease. When a person experiences a period of sustained obesity, conditions like high blood pressure, diabetes, and high cholesterol are almost guaranteed. Gandolfini never had any scandalous drinking or drug-use incidents, but he did have a reputation for binge eating and drinking. He was also an avid cigar smoker.
Gandolfini is just the latest in a string of amazing talents stricken down by obesity related diseases. Most recently, comedian Patrice O’Neal died of a stroke brought upon by diabetes complications. Last year, Rosie O’Donnell suffered a heart attack, Al Roker publicly talked about his gastric bypass surgery, and Jennifer Hudson opened up about her self-image issues. All three were lucky to survive their battles with obesity, though people like Big Pun, Chris Farley, John Candy, and Mama Cass weren’t as fortunate. Sadly, Gandolfini now joins that list, leaving behind a wife, 13-year-old son, and a one-year-old daughter.
Universally adored by his peers, critics, and fans, we hope that James Gandolfini is remembered and memorialized as the kind, hard working, talented, and intelligent man he was. Hopefully his death from obesity related heart problems will serve to educate those who don’t realize the dangers of a disease that kills more than 112,000 Americans each year.