Michael's Death: Heart Problem?

News of singer George Michael's death on Christmas Day came as a shock to many people around the world. Although all of details have not released at this time—and may not be fully known until an autopsy is performed—Michael's publicist confirmed the pop icon, who was 53 years old, died of heart failure in his sleep.

Heart failure, or congestive heart failure (CHF), occurs when the heart fails to pump blood throughout the body normally. Conditions that may be linked to CFH include high blood pressure, diabetes, obesity, and coronary artery disease—also sometimes called heart disease—and underlying problems, such as a fatal heart rhythm disturbance (arrhythmia), ruptured aneurysm, or pulmonary embolism (blood clot in the lung).

Although Michael had a history of health problems, he appeared fit before his death. According to medical experts, sudden heart failure is rare—especially in people under the age of 60. CHF risk increases with age and the condition usually progresses slowly. Symptoms include fatigue, cough, and shortness of breath. Research shows that heart-related deaths—especially in people with high blood pressure—are more common around the holidays, possibly due to factors like excess food and alcohol, added stress, and a lack of exercise this time of year.

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Sourced from: CBS News