Heart attacks at 50 years old

February 4, 2016
Barry Segal, Founder of Segal Family Foundation & Focus for Health

In my life I have had friends that have died suddenly within spitting distance of 50 years old. They were healthy men who have died instantly with no warning. Everyone I talk to gives me another example.

    • In roughly 1960, my wife’s father went to the dentist in the morning, didn’t feel well when he left, went downstairs, and at 11:00 am died of a massive heart attack. He was in good shape and was a social drinker. He was 51.
Low poly heart. Vector illustration
  • Roughly 1967, a policeman came to the office about 1:00pm and told my secretary her father died of a massive heart attack. He was 51.

Because of these two instances, I was aware and noticed many similar occurrences through the years. If I asked the age, it was usually in spitting distance of 51.

The problem is: these people probably never visited a cardiologist and the cardiologist might not be aware.

I feel the massive heart attack might be predictable and I hope it can be avoided.

Has anyone else had these experiences?


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Other examples. . .

  • Christopher George (actor and Vanna White’s uncle) died of a sudden heart attack at the age of 52 in 1983.
  • Jim Fixx was a fitness expert who wrote books on running and managing a healthy diet. He died in 1984 at 52 from a sudden heart attack while on his routine morning jog.
  • Actor Christopher Stone died at age 53 died of massive heart attack in 1995.
  • Robert Palmer, the rock star, died suddenly in 2003 at the age of 54 although he had just been cleared by a doctor to tour.
  • Brian Maxwell, co-founder of the Power Bar and avid runner, collapsed in a local Post Office and died of a heart attack in 2004 at the age of 51. Cause of death was a heart attack.
  • Miguel Contreras was an urban labor leader. In 2005, he collapsed suddenly and died in LA at the age of 52 from a sudden heart attack.

More recently:

  • A friend’s son-in-law, who was in excellent shape and worked out regularly, died of a massive heart attack. He was 51.
  • A friend’s girlfriend mentioned that her husband died many years ago in his sleep. He was only 54 years old and died suddenly.
  • February 18th 2014: John Henson (son of legendary Jim Henson) died suddenly of a massive heart attack while at home. He was 48 years old.
  • A friend was on a vacation/ski trip when her 48 year old father (healthy, very fit) collapsed at the top of the mountain. Dead in minutes. This happened about 15 years ago.

To me it’s a familiar story. . .


Jonathan Winter

I have a story too. And as a result, I am working on what needs to be done. However, I differ from your good article in one key respect: I DON’T think that in most cases it is access to cardiologists that is needed. There are much simpler ways to prevent the growing, needless loss of life that these stories represent around the world. My colleagues and I have embarked on a serious large-scale response (see website). We’d love to collaborate with you and with others to achieve this!

Radar Jones

As far as the above examples:

Jim Fixx was once obese and a smoker and didn’t handle stress well. Autopsy also showed he had thickened heart walls, probably from birth..

The Powerbar guy Maxwell had a bad valve from birth and was aware of the problem. Surgery was recommended but he decided against it.

Christopher George had a heart injury years earlier while filming Rat Patrol episode.

But anyone can drop dead with no warning anytime. There’s the old story of the guy who walked out of his doctor’s office whistling after getting a clean bill of health. He sat down in his car and died. He was found slumped over his steering wheel.


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