Subscribe to Dr. Mirkin's free FITNESS & HEALTH NEWSLETTER
Johnny Cash, the Man in Black

Johnny Cash wrote nearly 1500 songs and may have been America's most famous country singer. His fans included every president from Richard Nixon on, and almost everyone recognizes his voice. In his fifties he was diagnosed with diabetes, an avoidable and potentially curable disease that made him miserable for the last two decades of his life. He died too young because he broke almost every rule for living a long and healthful life: he smoked heavily, drank alcohol to excess, took excessive amounts of illicit and prescription drugs, was overweight, did not exercise, ate an unhealthful diet and had many sexual partners.

Early Life and Marriage
When he was born in 1932, during the great depression, he was given the name "J.R. Cash". He started working in the cotton fields at age five. When he went to enlist in the United States Air Force, he was told that he needed a name rather than just initials, so he chose John Cash.

After three years in the Air Force, he married Vivian Liberto, moved to Memphis, Tennessee, and sold appliances. He auditioned at Sun Records and recorded "I Walk the Line" which reached the top of the Country Charts. His first wife filed for divorce in 1966 because she was hurt by her husband's drug and alcohol abuse, his always being away on tour, and his affairs with other women, particularly with June Carter.

His Second Wife
In the early 1960s, Cash toured with the Carter Family that included the three daughters Anita, June and Helen. In 1968 he tried to commit suicide. June Carter and other members of her family moved into Cash's mansion for a month, and he told June that he had decided to live if she would marry him.

June Carter agreed to marry him only after he told her that he would give up drugs. Thirteen years after they first met backstage at the Grand Ole Opry, he proposed publicly to June Carter during a live performance in London, Ontario. They were married on March 1, 1968 and worked together for 35 years. It was a rocky marriage; Robert Hilburn, a Los Angeles Times music critic, wrote that Johnny Cash had an affair with June's sister.

The Man in Black
Because many of his songs told about prison life, people assumed he was speaking from experience, but actually he never spent more than one night in jail. He was arrested seven times:
• In 1965, El Paso narcotic officers found 688 Dexedrine capsules and 475 Equanil tablets inside Cash's guitar case. He received a suspended sentence.
• That same year, he was arrested in Starkville, Mississippi, for trespassing to pick flowers on private property late at night.
• In 1967 in Walker County, Georgia, he was in an automobile accident and officers found a bag full of prescription pills.

His many brushes with the law caused him to become an advocate for prison reform. He often sang while dressed in a long black knee-length coat. In 1971, Cash wrote the song "Man in Black", to help explain why he dressed like he did. "I wear black on behalf of the poor and hungry, on behalf of the prisoner who has long paid for his crime, on behalf of those who have been betrayed by age or drugs . . . With the Vietnam War as painful in my mind as it was in most other Americans', I wore it 'in mourning' for the lives that could have been. The old are still neglected, the poor are still poor, the young are still dying before their time, and we're not making many moves to make things right. There's still plenty of darkness to carry off."

Declining Health
In 1988, he went to the hospital to visit Waylon Jennings, who was recovering from a heart attack. Jennings suggested that Cash check into the hospital for his own heart condition. He did that and the doctors found that the arteries leading to his heart were blocked. Cash underwent double bypass surgery in the same hospital. Both recovered, and Cash later said that during his operation, he had what he called a "near death experience".

In 1997, Cash was diagnosed with a rare nerve disease called Shy-Drager syndrome, that has no known cause and no effective treatment. However, this was a wrong diagnosis because he had diabetes, a disease that commonly damages nerves. His diabetes was out of control and almost everything he did made it worse.

He was also diagnosed, most likely incorrectly, as having Parkinson' disease because his hands shook, he was unsteady on his feet, and his thought process was slowing down. It is far more likely that he did not have Parkinson's disease. All of these symptoms can be caused by diabetes, which can damage every nerve in your body including your brain.

At age 71, he was an invalid. The nerves in his legs were so badly damaged that he was unable to walk and had to use a wheel chair to get around. He wore leg braces and had to be fitted with special shoes. He was hospitalized several times for pneumonia caused by his heavy smoking.

On July 12, 2003 he was hospitalized at Baptist Hospital in Nashville and died of heart, lung, and kidney failure from his out-of-control diabetes, less than four months after the death of his wife. His early death was the result of a lifestyle that broke almost every known rule for living healthfully.

Type II Diabetes means that cells cannot respond to insulin. Insulin lowers blood sugar by driving sugar from the bloodstream into cells. Then blood sugar rises too high. This causes sugar to stick to the outer membranes of cells throughout the body. Once stuck on an call, sugar can never get off. It is eventually converted to sorbitol that destroys the cell. Diabetes causes:
• plaques to form in arteries that start the process that leads to heart attacks,
• nerve damage that cause impotence, dementia, loss of feeling and pain in the legs and everywhere else, and in his case, inability to walk,
• kidney damage,
• liver damage,
• brain damage and so forth.

What You Can Learn from Johnny Cash
Diabetes usually can be prevented if you avoid being overweight; eat plenty of fruits and vegetables; exercise; restrict sugared drinks, sugar-added foods, fried foods, refined carbohydrates and red meat, particularly if you are overweight or are not getting enough exercise; and get enough vitamin D. For a long and healthful life, also follow the other lifestyle rules that Cash ignored:
• Stay in a monogamous relationship
• Do not smoke
• Avoid excess alcohol
• Avoid illegal drugs and unnecessary prescription drugs.

Johnny Cash
Born: February 26, 1932 Died: July 12, 2003

April 6th, 2014
|   Share this Report!

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
Copyright 2016 Drmirkin | All Rights Reserved | Powered by Xindesigns