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The Villages
Wednesday, February 1, 2023

Barbara Walters spent her last years suffering from dementia

Dr. Gabe Mirkin

Barbara Walters was a brilliant television broadcaster for 65 years from 1951 through 2015. Her ability to ask the right questions at the right time made her the one chosen to interview some of the world’s most famous people, including: Fidel Castro, Anwar Sadat, Menachem Begin, Katharine Hepburn, Sean Connery, Monica Lewinsky, Hugo Chávez, Vladimir Putin, Shah Mohammad Reza Pahlavi, Jiang Zemin, Bashar al-Assad, and every sitting U.S. president and first lady from Richard and Pat Nixon to Barack and Michelle Obama. She hosted the ABC Evening News20/20 and The View. She was inducted into the Television Hall of Fame, received a Lifetime Achievement Award from the NATAS and a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame. She won the 1975 and 2009 Daytime Emmy awards for Outstanding Talk Show Host, and a 2003 Emmy award for Best Talk Show.

Walters spent her last years suffering from dementia and unable to recognize her old friends. On December 30, 2022, at age 93, she died at her home in Manhattan from what was called “natural causes,” but the most common cause of death in a person who is incapacitated by dementia is heart failure caused by the inactivity of lying in bed all the time.

A Brief Life History
Walters was born in Boston in 1929 to parents who were children of Russian Jewish emigrants. Her father managed the Latin Quarter nightclub in Boston, then went on to work as a Broadway producer in New York City and then became entertainment director for the Tropicana Resort and Casino in Las Vegas. He made and lost several fortunes throughout his life in show business, and the government took his house, his car, and his furniture. Because the family moved so often, Walters had to change schools frequently. She eventually earned a Bachelor of Arts in English from Sarah Lawrence College. She got her start in television by producing small documentaries and then became producer of a show for TV host Igor Cassini, but had to quit when Cassini pressured her to marry him and started a fistfight with another man over her.

Personal Life
Walters was a very popular woman who was married four times to three different men, and had numerous relationships that were followed by her many fans.

She:
• married Robert Henry Katz, a business executive for 11 months before the marriage was annulled,

• married Lee Guber, a theatrical producer and theater owner, and had three miscarriages. Then they adopted a baby girl in 1968 and divorced in 1976

• married Merv Adelson, the CEO of Lorimar Television, in 1981 and divorced in 1984. They remarried in 1986 and divorced again in 1992

• dated lawyer Roy Cohn in college; he said that he proposed marriage to her the night before her wedding to Lee Guber, but she denied this.

• dated future U.S. Federal Reserve chairman Alan Greenspan in the 1970s

• dated United States Senator John Warner in the 1990s

• wrote that she had an affair in the 1970s with Senator Edward Brooke

• dated the Pulitzer Prize–winning gerontologist Robert Neil Butler

Health Issues and Warning Signs
In 2010, at age 81, Walters had successful open-heart surgery for aortic stenosis, a thickening from calcium buildup in the heart valve, that blocked the flow of blood from the heart to the body. Aortic stenosis It is usually caused by the same process that causes heart attacks in people who have high cholesterol, high blood pressure and high blood sugar. The surgery is fairly common, with almost 20,000 surgical procedures performed for this condition each year.

In the years after her heart surgery, she continued to host her television shows, but was forgetting names and places. When she was 83 in January 2013, at a party to cover President Barack Obama‘s second inauguration, she fell down stairs and cut her forehead. The fact that she did not return to the inauguration party and was not seen for many weeks afterwards warned that something was really wrong. She was now becoming progressively more forgetful. In 2015, at age 86, she was forced to retire permanently from her television shows. In 2016, she developed chicken pox, a suggestion that something was wrong with her immune system. The last time she was seen publicly was at the Paris Theater for the New York premiere of Cafe Society on July 13, 2016. Afterwards, she was bedridden and unable to recognize most of her friends. She suffered from exhaustion, fatigue, anxiety and agitation. Reports from RadarOnline said that “she never left her bed,” and was “wheelchair-bound and suffering from advanced dementia,” She spent the majority of the day in bed, fading more and more each day.
Lessons from Barbara Walters’ Dementia
Dementia is a disease characterized by progressive loss of memory that affects more than a third of U.S. citizens over 90. Eventually, they spend all their time lying in bed, which directly causes death from heart failure. Your skeletal muscles strengthen your heart muscle.  Every day you lie in bed without moving makes your heart progressively weaker until it becomes too weak to pump enough oxygen to your brain. Your brain is damaged so that it stops telling you to breathe and you die from lack of oxygen to your brain.

Dementia is associated with several unhealthful lifestyle factors; see Anti-Inflammatory Lifestyle to Help Prevent Dementia as You Age

Dr. Gabe Mirkin is a Villager. Learn more at www.drmirkin.com

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