Hollywood not immune from strokes, heart disease

In an effort to draw attention to the toll of strokes and cardiovascular disease, a group of researchers at the University of California, Los Angeles decided to take a look at the health of Oscar-level actors.

They found that Hollywood isn't immune from strokes and heart disease – which are among the leading causes of death and disability in the nation.

The findings, presented at the American Heart Association/American Stroke Association's International Stroke Conference in Los Angeles last week, showed a tremendous impact on the actors' careers.


"Since this is the first time the ISC is being held in Los Angeles, we thought it was an appropriate occasion to investigate the frequency and impact of stroke among leading Hollywood actors," said Hannah Smith, a staff research associate at the UCLA Stroke Center, in a statement. "By documenting the toll that stroke and myocardial infarction have exacted on stars like Kirk Douglas and Grace Kelly, we hope to illustrate the damage that cardiovascular disease can cause."

They looked at best actor and best actress Oscar nominees from 1927 through 2009, and of the 409  nominated over the 82-year period:

+30 (7.3 percent) suffered strokes and 39 (9.5 percent) suffered heart attacks.
+The average age of nominees at their first stroke was 67.
+More women suffered strokes than men and 20 percent of the total suffered fatal strokes.
+Performers' annual movie/television appearances declined an average of 73 percent during the three years following a stroke or heart attack.

The heart and stroke associations report that stroke is the fourth leading killer in the country. Some 795,000 people have a new or recurrent stroke each year. The groups say it's preventable by controlling blood pressure and cholesterol, quitting smoking, exercising and eating a healthy diet.

See a list of those who have had a stroke on the next page.

Notable Oscar nominees and winners who suffered strokes include:

+Mary Pickford (winner, 1929)
+Bette Davis (nominee, 1934; winner, 1935)
+James Cagney (nominee, 1938; winner 1942)
+Cary Grant (nominee, 1942)
+Kirk Douglas (nominee, 1950)
+Richard Burton (nominee, 1954)
+Grace Kelly (winner, 1954)
+Elizabeth Taylor (nominee, 1957, winner 1960)
+Patricia Neal (winner, 1963)
+Dudley Moore (nominee, 1982)
+James Garner (nominee, 1985)
+Sharon Stone (nominee, 1995)