Celebrities Who Have Opened Up About Heart Health

Barbra Streisand, Jennie Garth and Queen Latifah have spoken out about how heart disease has impacted their lives

01 of 10

Star Jones

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Star Jones. Theo Wargo/Getty

Ever since undergoing open heart surgery in 2010 for her surprise diagnosis of heart disease, Jones has worked as a national ambassador for the American Heart Association to raise awareness.

"Heart disease is the number one killer of all Americans, the number one killer of African-Americans and the number one killer of women, so I should’ve been put on notice since I’m three-for-three. But like a lot of women, I thought that heart disease was an old white guy’s disease," the former talk show, 56, host tells PEOPLE.

Jones' goal with the AHA is to help women "actively put themselves on the track to heart health." She's currently spreading the word about the AHA's partnership with CVS' MinuteClinics for free heart health screenings every Thursday in February.

"Women are the natural caregivers; we take care of everyone else under the sun," she says. "We’re saying to put the focus back on you and make a date with your heart."

02 of 10

Susan Lucci

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The 72-year-old soap oprea legend started feeling a tightness in her chest in Fall 2018, but waved it off — until the end of October, when she had to be rushed to the hospital. There, Lucci learned that she had a 90 percent blockage in the main artery of her heart and a 70 percent blockage in another, and needed emergency surgery.

Now, fully healed thanks to two stents in her arteries, Lucci is spreading the word.

“I’m not a nurse or anyone who can help in any real way,” she told PEOPLE, fighting back tears. “This is the way I can help. I can tell my story. Everyone’s symptoms are different but I felt compelled to share mine. Even if it’s one person I help. That is someone’s life.”

03 of 10

Barbra Streisand

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The singer co-founded the Women’s Heart Alliance, which works to raise awareness and funds research to fight women’s heart disease.

“Heart disease and stroke are the number one killers of women,” Streisand, 74, told PEOPLE about why she helped found the organization. “For me, it’s about gender equality. Women are 50 percent more likely to be given a wrong diagnosis after a heart attack and are at a greater risk of dying within a year of a heart attack than men."

04 of 10

Toni Braxton

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Braxton is a survivor of pericarditis, an inflammation of the sac surrounding the heart

"I have heart disease, and I found out about five or four years ago,” the singer, now 49, told PEOPLE in 2008.

She was originally under the impression she felt the way she did simply because she was exhausted.

“I was disappointed [when I was diagnosed]. I didn’t get it."

After finding out about her heart disease, Braxton stopped eating unhealthy foods at night.

"I had to make lifestyle and diet changes,” she said. “I eat relatively well, but sometimes having those pizzas and burgers late at night — I had to change that.”

05 of 10

Jennie Garth

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The actress, 44, found out she had a leaky valve in 2002.

“A lot of people have it,” she told Access Hollywood in 2009. “They don’t know they have it … [It] leaks blood. It sort of flutters open and shut. It’s weird because sometimes when I’m resting I can feel a little weird fluttering.”

Garth was already familiar with heart diease before her diagnosis because it runs in her family.

“I’ve been affected by heart disease practically my whole life,” she said. “My father has struggled with heart disease since he was 50, and I lost him [in 2008].”

06 of 10

Queen Latifah

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The star's mother, Rita Owens, was diagnosed with heart failure after passing out while teaching art at a New Jersey high school in 2004. The tragic event's silver lining was that it caused Latifah, 46, and her mother, 67, to bond.

"We’ve gotten a lot closer and we’ve learned each other on a whole different, deeper level,” she told PEOPLE in 2015.

Latifah has taken on her mom's caregiving duties, along with relatives and a nurse, whenever she is on the east coast.

“I will do whatever I can to make sure my mom is comfortable and has whatever she needs,” she said.

07 of 10

Alex Trebek

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The Jeopardy! host, 76, suffered a mild heart attack in 2012.

"I had been doing some work around the house working with a heavy ladder,” he told PEOPLE of his activity in the days leading up to his heart attack. “I just thought it was muscle strain.”

Fortunately, he was quickly on the mend.

“My body cleared the blockage itself,” said the game show host, who credited the aspirin he was taking for what he thought was simple muscle pain. “My heart seems to heal, so that speaks well for my future.”

08 of 10

Elisabeth Röhm

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Röhm, 43, tragically lost two of her family members to heart issues.

“My mom [and aunt] passed away [in their 60s from heart disease], and my dad had a heart attack when I was around 10 and he had a triple bypass,” the actress told PEOPLE.

“Rather than just sit there and do nothing about how much I missed [my mother], I put all of that pain, sorrow and longing for my mother into helping educate and make people aware. I would really like for people to not have to experience what I had to experience,” she continued.

She partnered with the American Heart Association to encourage others to get CPR training that could potentially be life-saving.

“There’s no reason to not be CPR certified.”

09 of 10

Rosie O'Donnell

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O'Donnell suffered a heart attack in 2012, and wrote about her experience on her blog.

“They call this type of heart attack the Widow Maker," she wrote. "I am lucky to be here."

O’Donnell, now 54, said her heart attack began after she helped “an enormous woman” struggling to get out of her car in a parking lot. A few hours after helping the woman, she began to experience chest aches, soreness in both arms, nausea and clammy skin.

"I Googled 'womens' heart attack symptoms,' " her blog post continued. "I had many of them, but I thought, 'Nah.' ”

O'Donell took the aspirin recommended for people who think they are suffering a heart attack just in case, but didn’t call 911. While she ended up being okay, she advised other women to be more cautious.

"Know the symptoms ladies," she wrote. "Listen to the voice inside, the one we all so easily ignore. Call 911. Save yourself.”

10 of 10

Charlie Rose

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Last week, the CBS This Morning anchor announced via his co-anchors Gayle King and Norah O’Donnell that he would be taking a break from the show to undergo heart surgery.

“Almost 15 years ago skilled surgeons replaced my aorta valve with a new replacement valve. It has served me well enabling me to live the vigorous, full, complete life you are all so familiar with. No one loves life more than I do,” read the statement. “To continue to live this amazing life so full of challenges and friends, including so many of you in the audience, I have chosen to replace the valve with a new one. The timing is my choice.”

Rose underwent the procedure last week, and said he would be going home to rest for a couple of weeks before returning in March.

“I can’t wait to be back, completely rested with my heart recharged, my passion for the work ahead purposeful and my joy at life’s pleasures high," the statement continued. "Until then, stay close.”

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