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Friday, May 24, 2024

Louis Gossett’s bad habits took toll on his health

Dr. Gabe Mirkin

Louis Gossett was a very famous movie and television actor who won the 1982 Best Supporting Actor Oscar for playing a no-nonsense drill sergeant in “An Officer and a Gentleman,” where he had prepared for the part by taking field drills with a real marine battalion. He also won an Emmy for his role in the TV miniseries “Roots.”

at the Apprentice Viewing Party in the Club Bliss, West Hollywood, CA. 02 26 04
Louis Gossett

He died at age 87 on March 29, 2024, with Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease (COPD), heart failure, atrial fibrillation and prostate cancer. He had many of the risk factors shared by all of these conditions and other diseases of inflammation: addiction to smoking, alcohol and cocaine, plus use of marijuana and the typically unhealthful U.S. diet of fast foods and ultra-processed foods. He told the New York Times, “I had an Oscar and an Emmy, and yet I had this big hole in my soul.”

At age 44, he was arrested for possession of cocaine. In the early 1990s, when he was in his fifties, he had severe shortness of breath and coughing of COPD and told the news media that his doctor predicted that he had only six months to live. In 2001 at age 65, he stated that doctors told him that his severe lung disease was caused by toxic mold in his Malibu home. However, in North America, abuse of tobacco and drugs are far more common causes of lung disease than molds. In 2010, when he was 74, he wrote “An Actor and a Gentleman,” a book about the story of his life on drugs and alcohol until he was hospitalized at a rehabilitation center in 2004 at age 68. In 2010 he announced that he also had prostate cancer, but 95 percent of men with prostate cancer die of something other than prostate cancer, such as heart disease. In December 2020, Gossett was hospitalized in Georgia with a COVID-19 infection, but he recovered from that with additional lung damage. He died in a rehabilitation center in Santa Monica, California, on March 29, 2024, at the age of 87.

His Rise to Fame
Gossett was born in Coney Island, New York City, to a father who was a porter and a mother who was a nurse. He wanted to be a basketball player, but an injury prompted him to take an acting class and then at age 17 he won a role in the Broadway play “Take a Giant Step.” The show ran for 76 performances and was selected as one of the 10 best Broadway shows of 1953 by The New York Times. After that, he played basketball at New York University and was offered, but turned down, a tryout with the New York Knicks basketball team. He appeared in several Broadway plays and was featured as a talented singer in several musicals on stage and on television. In 1967 ,at age 30, he had hit single recordings of “Where Have All the Flowers Gone” and “Just a Girl,” which made him even more famous. He continued acting regularly in movies, plays and television almost up to the year of his death.

His unhealthful lifestyle complicated the diseases he had.

  • Smoking tobacco increases risk for prostate cancer, aggressive prostate cancer (JAMA, 2011;305:2548–2555),and death from prostate cancer (Eur Urol, 2015;68:949–956) or a heart attack (BMC Med, Jul 3 2019;17(1):128).
  • Cannabis is associated with significantly increased risk for heart disease, heart attacks, strokes and prostate cancer, and the more a person uses, the greater the risk (J Am Heart Assoc, Feb 28, 2024;13(5):e030178; Biomedicines, May 3, 2024;12(5):1008).
  • Regular use of alcohol is associated with increased risk for prostate cancer (Nutrients, Feb 12, 2023;15(4):925). Taking in more than two drinks per day is associated with increased prostate cancer risk (Br J Cancer, 2015 Feb 3; 112(3):580–593; Eur J Cancer Prev, Jul 2012;21(4):350–9). All amounts of alcohol are associated with increased risk for heart attacks with the more alcohol you drink, the greater the heart attack risk (JAMA Netw Open, 2022;5(3):e223849).
  • Being overweight is substantially associated with increased risk for developing localized and progressive prostate cancer (Ann Oncol, 2012 Jan 6;23(7):1665–71) and of dying from it if you already have it (Cancer Prev Res (Phila), 2011;4:486–501).
  • Lack of exercise: Many studies show that men who exercise are far less likely to develop prostate cancer and those who exercise vigorously are protected even more. Exercising after being diagnosed with prostate cancer is associated with reduced recurrence (Cancer Epidemiol Biomark Prev, 2015;24:57–64) and reduced death rate (J Clin Oncol, 2011;29:726–732). Vigorous exercise strengthens the heart and lungs, increases muscle strength and reduces body fat in cancer survivors (Support Care Cancer, 2012;20:221–233).
  • Lack of vitamin D is associated with increased risk for cancer in general (Mol Cell Endocrinol, 2011;347:61-69) and prostate cancer specifically (Cancer Epidemiol Biomarkers Prev, 2014;23:1447-1449). Current recommendations are to keep your blood level of hydroxy vitamin D above 20-30 ng/mL.

Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease (COPD)
COPD is a chronic lung disease caused by blockage of airflow in the bronchial tubes that carry air to and from the lungs. Symptoms include shortness of breath, cough, mucus production and wheezing. It can be caused by asthma, swelling and constriction of muscles around the bronchial tubes, but is more commonly caused by breathing polluted air from smoking cigarettes or anything else, living with a smoker or even living in a house previously lived in by a smoker. It also is caused by air pollution and working with air pollutants. People with COPD are at significantly increased risk for developing heart disease.

Shared Risk Factors for COPD, Heart Disease, Strokes, Prostate Cancer and Other Diseases of Inflammation
With an unhealthful lifestyle, the 10-year risk for developing cancer or a heart attack was 40 percent for men and 25 percent for women, compared to 30 percent for the men and 18 percent for the women with healthful lifestyles (BMC Medicine, Jan 15, 2020;18(5)). The same lifestyle factors help to prolong lives and prevent all of these diseases . These include:

  • eating a plant-based diet loaded with fruits, vegetables, whole unground grains, beans, seeds and nuts
  • restricting mammal and processed meats, sugar added foods and drinks, and fried foods
  • try to exercise every day or be physically active
  • losing excess body fat, particularly in the belly
  • keeping blood levels of hydroxy vitamin D above 30 ng/dL
  • restricting or avoiding alcohol
  • avoiding smoking and second-hand smoke
  • avoiding chronic exposure to excess sunlight
  • avoiding exposure to X rays and other sources of radiation, and exposure to harmful chemicals such as certain insecticides, herbicides and industrial chemicals
  • treating chronic infections anywhere in the body

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

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