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takes 'Enormous Toll' on Hollywood Stars
February 15, 2011 — A study by researchers
at the UCLA Stroke Center found that stroke
and cardiovascular disease have exacted an
enormous toll on Hollywood stars.
The findings were presented at the American
Heart Association/American Stroke
Association's International Stroke
Conference (ISC) in Los Angeles on Feb. 10.
"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
"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."
The team investigated the frequency and
impact of stroke among best actor and best
actress Oscar nominees from 1927 through
2009. They identified lifetime reports of
non-fatal and fatal strokes and heart
attacks through public records and prior
studies of deaths from all causes among
nominees. They also examined the impact of
strokes and heart attacks on these
Of the 409 actors and actresses 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,
accounting for 18 of the 30 stroke victims,
or 60 percent. Six of them (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, compared with a
similar period before being stricken.
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
• Patricia Neal (winner, 1963)
• Dudley Moore (nominee, 1982)
• James Garner (nominee, 1985)
• Sharon Stone (nominee, 1995)
According to the AHA/ASA, stroke is the
fourth leading cause of death in the United
States and a leading cause of serious,
On average, someone suffers a stroke every 45
seconds, someone dies of a stroke every
three minutes and 795,000 people suffer a
new or recurrent stroke each year.
"Stroke and cardiovascular disease can affect
one's career productivity and even result in
death," UCLA's Smith said.
"However, stroke is a highly preventable
disease. Key prevention steps include
controlling high blood pressure, controlling
high cholesterol, not smoking, exercising
regularly and eating a diet rich in fruits
and vegetables and low in saturated fats."
Additional research authors included Rana
Fiaz and Dr. Jeffrey L. Saver of UCLA. The
study was not funded, and the authors have
no financial ties to disclose.
The UCLA Stroke Center, recognized as one of
the world's leading centers for the
management of cerebral vascular disease,
treats simple and complex vascular disorders
by incorporating recent developments in
emergency medicine, stroke neurology,
neuroradiology, stereotactic radiology,
neurointensive care, neuroanesthesiology and
The program is unique in its ability to
integrate clinical and research activities
across multiple disciplines and departments.
Founded in 1994, the UCLA Stroke Center is
designated as a certified Primary Stroke
Center by the national Joint Commission on
Accreditation of Healthcare Organizations.