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Profiles in Heart Disease: Drew Carey

What factors led to the comic's 2001 operation?

By Marc Lallanilla

Updated January 19, 2009

(LifeWire) - Heavyweight comic Drew Carey has provided fans with plenty of mirth over the years, but the funnyman's brush with heart disease was no laughing matter. In August of 2001, one day after experiencing chest pain and tingling in his arms and shoulders, Carey felt the same pain return while on the Warner Brothers set of his television show, The Drew Carey Show. Paramedics arrived at the 240-pound star's trailer and rushed him to St. Joseph's Medical Center in Burbank, Calif.

  • Diagnosis: Carey, 50, did not experience a heart attack, but one of his arteries was about 95% blocked. According to Dr. Daniel Eisenberg, a cardiac specialist who treated Carey, "Drew was clearly a heart attack waiting to happen."
  • Known Treatments: In cases such as Carey's, where severe chest pain is caused by a lack of oxygen to the heart, an angioplasty is considered the treatment of choice. Angioplasty involves the use of a small surgical balloon to widen the blocked artery. A stent -- a tiny tube-like mesh -- is then inserted in the artery to keep it from closing up again following the angioplasty. For some patients, drugs that lower cholesterol levels may also be used.
  • Outcome: Carey's operation was considered a success, and the comic was able to return to work a week later. (Dick Cheney, who had a similar operation in March of 2001, resumed his vice presidential duties the next day.)
  • Predisposing Conditions/Habits: Carey often made jokes about his obesity, lack of exercise and fat-laden diet -- all of which contributed to his heart condition. "He is clearly the average American in terms of his risk," Dr. Eisenberg said. Carey's family also has a history of heart disease.
  • Recovery: According to reports in ABC News and elsewhere, Carey has amended his lifestyle and now eats low-fat meals, such as brown rice and vegetables, drinks water instead of sugary drinks and exercises more regularly.  "I could still eat a cheeseburger if I wanted to," said Carey. "I just can't have them every day."
  • Quotes: After losing about 40 pounds, Carey remarked, "I feel fantastic ... I've never felt better in my life."

Read about what to do if your cardiac risk is elevated.

Sources:

"Drew Carey." The Internet Movie Database. 2008. 22 Dec. 2008 <http://www.imdb.com/name/nm0004804/>.



"Drew Carey: A New Lifestyle." abcnews.com. 14 Nov. 2001. ABC News. 22 Dec 2008 <http://abcnews.go.com/2020/Story?id=123992&page=1>.



"Drew Carey puts angioplasty in the headlines." 14 Aug. 2001. USA Today. 22 Dec. 2008 <http://www.usatoday.com/news/health/spotlight/2001-08-14-carey-angioplasty.htm>.


LifeWire, a part of The New York Times Company, provides original and syndicated online lifestyle content. Marc Lallanilla is a New York-based freelance writer and editor. He has written extensively on health, science, the environment, design, architecture, business, lifestyle and travel.

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