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Friday
Feb112011

Is The Oscar Ticket to Heart Attack, Stroke?

Photo Courtesy - Getty Images(LOS ANGELES) -- Hollywood's biggest stars take to the red carpet Feb. 27 for the 83rd Annual Academy Awards. And while Oscar hopefuls may look the picture of health on the big night, they're no safer from heart disease and stroke -- two of the three leading causes of death in the United States -- than anyone else.

To promote heart attack and stroke awareness, researchers from the University of California, Los Angeles used public records to examine the prevalence of stroke and heart attack among lead actors and actresses nominated for Oscars since the awards began in 1927.

"We thought, What better way to communicate the effects of stroke and heart attack than by focusing on movie stars?" said lead author Hannah Smith, a research associate at the UCLA Stroke Center. Smith is presenting her findings as a poster at the American Stroke Association International Stroke Conference in Los Angeles.

"Stroke and heart attacks have exacted an enormous toll on Hollywood actors as well as the American population in general," Smith said. "We're hoping the study results will help promote healthier, disease-avoiding lifestyles."

According to the study, 30 of 409 leading actors and actresses (7.3 percent) suffered a stroke -- a proportion that is "sure to be an underestimate," said senior author Dr. Jeffrey Saver, medical director of the UCLA Stroke Unit.

The lifetime risk of stroke in the United States is roughly 2.9 percent, according to a 2010 report from the American Heart Association.

Although the researchers were unable to reliably compare stroke risk among the stars with that in the general population, Saver has a hunch it's higher in Hollywood.

"I think we can say, because we found this high rate just by public records, the rate of these events in Hollywood has been substantial -- far more than it should have been," Saver said.

Famous nominees over the years who suffered from strokes include Mary Pickford, Bette Davis, James Cagney, Cary Grant, Kirk Douglas, Richard Burton, Grace Kelly, Elizabeth Taylor, Patricia Neal, Liza Minnelli, Dudley Moore, James Garner and Sharon Stone.

Thirty-nine Oscar nominees (9.5 percent) had heart attacks and 65 (15.9 percent) had either a heart attack or a stroke, the authors reported.

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