LAKE CHARLES, LA (KPLC) - New medical reports show that heart disease is likely what killed TV pitchman Billy Mays. It's the number one killer in America and sudden death can often be the first alert to the underlying condition.
Authorities now know more about how Billy Mays died. Hillsborough County Medical Examiner Vernard Adams says, "The autopsy did reveal hypertensive and arteriosclerotic heart disease, which affects the electrical rhythm that controls the pumping of the blood."
When Mays' wife found him Sunday morning in their Tampa home, he was unresponsive. CHRISTUS St. Patrick Hospital cardiologist Dr. Michael Turner says this type of sudden death is not uncommon with heart disease. "We expect people with heart disease to present with chest pain or unusual shortness of breath," says Dr. Turner, "but unfortunately, there is a significant number of people who die suddenly as the first manifestation of heart disease."
When a heart rhythm abnormality occurs within a person outside of a hospital, the odds are stacked highly against them. "If you don't have bystander CPR or defibrillation within eight minutes," says Dr. Turner, "the chances of survival are only one out of 10."
Dr. Turner says if we want to change these statistics, heart disease must be detected earlier. "We can do that by looking at traditional risk factors and using new technology like calcium scoring to risk-stratify people and then be very aggressive with those people who are at a high risk for this type of event," he says.
People at an increased risk for heart disease typically have a family history of the condition, high cholesterol or blood pressure and are overweight. Once heart disease is present, it will always be there - but it doesn't have to be a death sentence. Dr. Turner says, "We can significantly decrease the risk of having a heart attack or dying from heart disease by behavioral modifications and medicines called 'statin drugs' which significantly decrease the risk of heart attack and death."
The livelihood of the person with this condition comes down to the health choices made each day and today's the best day to turn your health in the right direction.
*It is not 100 percent definite at this time that Billy Mays died of heart disease, but it's suspected as the cause. Toxicology tests will take another six to eight weeks and authorities will release a statement at that time confirming the official cause of death.