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Elvis Presley: Killed by Inflammation

elvis presleyElvis Presley sold more records than anyone else in the history of recorded music. He was nominated for 14 Grammys and won three, and has been inducted into virtually every music hall of fame. He died at the tragically young age of 42. In the last years of his life, he suffered from obesity, drug addiction, depression, chronic insomnia, glaucoma, high blood pressure, liver damage, rheumatoid arthritis, chronic constipation and an enlarged colon. Every one of these conditions causes inflammation. He died in 1977, more than two decades before researchers recognized that inflammation is the primary risk factor for heart attacks.

Elvis Died from a Heart Attack, Not Constipation
His final concert was held in Indianapolis at Market Square Arena, on June 26, 1977. On August 16, 1977 he fell off the toilet and lay in a pool of vomit. He was rushed by ambulance to Baptist Memorial Hospital, where he died at 3:30 pm CST. His autopsy was performed at 7:00 pm. Approximately 80,000 people lined the processional route for his funeral.

His personal physician, Dr. “Nick” Nichopoulos, claimed that chronic constipation killed Elvis. The autopsy showed that his colon was full of more than 30 pounds of feces. Chronic constipation enlarges your colon, and Elvis’ colon was twice as long and twice as wide as a normal colon. However, you don’t die of constipation without a dramatic amount of warning beforehand. For constipation to kill a person, the colon dies first. Elvis’s autopsy did not show that his colon died because the pathologist did not notice tissue necrosis, a marker of cell death. Also the autopsy did not show a rupture of the colon itself.

I did find several reports of people who died from drug-induced constipation (BMC Psychiatry, October 19, 2006;6:43). However, all of these people had severe cramping with progressively-worsening belly pain. Virtually all people who die of constipation are in such horrible pain for weeks prior to death that they can do nothing but cry and moan. Elvis played racquetball on the day he died. He did not die of constipation; he died after suffering a heart attack.

Inflammation Led to His Heart Attack
The leading cause of heart attacks is inflammation, an overactive immunity. Your immunity is supposed to protect you from invading germs. However, if your immunity stays active all the time, it attacks you with the same chemicals that it uses to kill germs. The chemicals that your immunity uses to dissolve the outer coats of bacteria, punch holes in your arteries. Then these holes start to heal and plaques form in these areas. Many years after the first plaques form in your arteries, your immunity then knocks off a piece of the plaque from an artery. The broken piece then travels down the ever-narrowing artery to completely obstruct the artery. Also, a clot forms where the plaque has broken off to block blood flow. Then the part of the heart muscle that is deprived of a blood supply dies, causing a heart attack.

Evidence That Elvis Had Extensive Inflammation
The autopsy showed that Elvis was massively obese, had extensive plaques in his arteries and had a very enlarged heart. In the last years of his life, he suffered from many heart-attack provoking factors:
• a high-sugar, high-fat diet,
• high blood pressure,
• chronic insomnia,
• liver damage,
• rheumatoid arthritis, and
• chronic drug addiction. The pathologists found 14 drugs in his body.

Obesity: As a young man he was a sex symbol who wiggled his attractive body to make the women in the audience shriek and howl. In later life, he became obese with a mind dulled by pain-killing and anti-depressant drugs, and was barely able to get through his last few concerts. Full fat cells block insulin receptors to prevent a person’s cells from responding to insulin. Blood sugar levels rise and a high rise in blood sugar causes inflammation that punches holes that start plaques forming in arteries.

Heart-attack diet: All his life he ate lots of high-sugar, low-fiber and high-fat foods: pork chops with mashed potatoes, meat loaf, cheeseburgers, sodas and his favorite, peanut-butter and banana sandwiches fried in lard or butter. He loved Eskimo Pies.

High blood pressure: He had significantly high blood pressure, but nowhere in my reading was I able to find evidence that he took medication to help lower it.

Rheumatoid arthritis: He suffered from rheumatoid arthritis, a disease that is characterized by inflammation and is associated with a markedly increased risk for heart attacks.

Chronic insomnia: Chronic insomnia is a major risk factor for heart attacks. It is often associated with obesity.

Liver damage: People who have liver damage are at markedly increased risk for heart attacks. His damaged liver turned on his immunity to cause inflammation. His liver damage was most likely associated with his addiction to drugs.

Chronic drug addiction: The fourteen drugs found in his body included painkillers, morphine, Demerol, and codeine; an antihistamine, chloropheniramine; tranquilizers, Placidyl and Valium; sleeping pills, ethinamate and Quaalude; a barbiturate and an antidepressant. Apparently he also took Amytal, Nembutal, Carbrital, Sinutab, Elavil, Avental, and Valmid. In the first eight months of 1977 his physician prescribed up to 10,000 doses of sedatives, amphetamines and narcotics in Elvis's name.

What You Can Learn from the Death of Elvis Presley
• Don’t be overweight.
• Eat a diet that restricts red meat, sugared drinks, sugar-added foods, and fried foods. Eat huge amounts of fruits and vegetables. * Exercise. * Try to avoid all drugs, particularly those that can damage your liver.
• Don’t take any pills unless your doctor prescribes them for a specific reason.
• If you have high blood pressure: lose weight, exercise, eat a healthful diet and take medication to lower high blood pressure.
• If you have rheumatoid arthritis, you need to help prevent inflammation by exercising, trying to avoid infections, avoiding overweight and eating a healthful diet.

Here are my reports from 2001 and 2002 on the first major articles linking inflammation and heart attacks:
Journal of the American Medical Association, November 2001
New England Journal of Medicine, November 2002

Here are my most recent updates on inflammation:
Inflammation Can Help or Harm
Anti-Inflammatory and Pro-Inflammatory Foods

Elvis Presley
January 8, 1935 - August 16, 1977

November 13th, 2016
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About the Author: Gabe Mirkin, MD

Sports medicine doctor, fitness guru and long-time radio host Gabe Mirkin, M.D., brings you news and tips for your healthful lifestyle. A practicing physician for more than 50 years and a radio talk show host for 25 years, Dr. Mirkin is a graduate of Harvard University and Baylor University College of Medicine. He is board-certified in four specialties: Sports Medicine, Allergy and Immunology, Pediatrics and Pediatric Immunology. The Dr. Mirkin Show, his call-in show on fitness and health, was syndicated in more than 120 cities. Read More
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