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Wednesday, July 24, 2024

Baseball great Willie Mays died of heart failure

Dr. Gabe Mirkin

On June 18, 2024, Willie Mays died at age 93 from heart failure. He was one of the best baseball players of all time and went straight from high school to playing center field from 1951 to 1973 in the National League for the New York and San Francisco Giants and New York Mets. In his first year in the National League he was the Rookie of the Year, and he hit 20 home runs to help his team win the pennant. In 1954, he won the NL Most Valuable Player Award, leading the Giants to their last World Series title before their move to the West Coast.

In 1965, the Giants moved to San Francisco. Mays went on to win another Most Valuable Player Award and he also led the Giants to the 1962 World Series, this time losing to the New York Yankees. At the end of his career, he returned to New York after a mid-season trade to the New York Mets in 1972, He retired after the team’s trip to the 1973 World Series, and served as a coach for the Mets for the rest of the decade. Later rejoined the Giants as a special assistant to the president and general manager.

He was an All-Star 20 times, led the NL in home runs four times and in slugging percentage five times, batted over .300 ten times, drove in 100 runs ten times, led his league in stolen bases four times, triples three times, and runs twice. He stole 179 bases and won 12 consecutive Golden Glove Awards. He was elected to the Baseball Hall of Fame in 1979 and to the Major League Baseball All-Century Team in 1999, and he was given the Presidential Medal of Freedom in 2015.

Genetically Gifted
Mays was born on May 6, 1931, in Westfield, Alabama to a father who was a gifted baseball player and a mother who was a high school basketball and track star. He was the high scorer on his high school basketball team; quarterback, fullback and punter on the football team; and the best player on his high school baseball team.

What Is Heart Failure?
More than seven million North Americans suffer from heart failure (J Am Coll Cardiol. 2022;79: 250-263). Heart failure develops when the heart is not able to pump enough blood to meet the body’s needs for oxygen. Either the heart cannot fill up with enough blood or it is too weak to pump enough blood through the body. Heart failure is usually caused by another medical condition that weakens or damages the heart: blocked heart arteries, heart muscle damage called cardiomyopathy, high blood pressure, or an irregular heartbeat. Early symptoms may just be a rapid and irregular heartbeat, tiredness and weakness, that can lead to shortness of breath, coughing, dizziness, passing out and fluid collecting in the legs, belly, lungs and neck. Other symptoms may include inability to exercise, wheezing, damage to the liver or kidneys, irregular heartbeats or heart valve damage. The heart can stop beating altogether.

There is no cure for heart failure. Treatment is to help relieve symptoms and slow further heart damage.

  • Medications: Vasodilators to widen blood vessels, ease blood flow, and reduce blood pressure, Diuretics and aldosterone inhibitors reduce excess fluid accumulation, ACE inhibitors and Angiotensin Receptor Blocker drugs to lower high blood pressure and improve heart function, Digitalis to strengthen the heart muscle contractions, Anticoagulants or antiplatelets (aspirin) help prevent blood clots, Beta-blockers slow rapid heart rate, Tranquilizers to reduce anxiety.
  • Severely restrict salt because it increases fluid retention, and caffeine because it increases risk for irregular heartbeats. Your doctor will decide how much fluid you should take in each day.
  • Surgical procedures may be necessary to open or by pass blocked heart arteries, or to replace heart valves.
  • Pacemakers may be inserted into the heart to make the heart beat more strongly and with more regularity.
  • A Continuous Positive Airway Pressure (CPAP) machine may be used for sleep apnea.
  • A heart transplant may be a last resort

What You Should Learn From This
There at many lifestyle factors that are associated with increased risk for heart failure. Since there is no cure for heart failure, every healthy person should follow the rules for reducing risk for this potentially fatal condition:

  • Exercise: Try to exercise or move about every day.
  • Diet: Eat a plant-based diet that is loaded with fiber and low in mammal meat (saturated fat, trans fat, cholesterol), and sodium. The diet should include fruits, vegetables, whole unground grains, beans, seeds and nuts and “good” fats like those found in olive oil, fish, and avocados. You should restrict sugar-added foods and sugared drinks.
  • Weight: Avoid being overweight.
  • Sleep: Try to stick to a regular sleep schedule of 7-9 hours each night
  • Avoid alcohol
  • Avoid smoke
  • Avoid potent stimulants such as amphetamines.

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

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