We’ve talked about different famous people and how their deaths were associated with sleep apnea–or at least played a partial role. More recently we saw the death of beloved “Star Wars” actress, Carrie Fisher. While “Star Wars” fans mourned the death of their precious Princess Leia, we were learning a lot more about her health at the time of death. What is the most interesting is her sleep apnea. We are not sure if it was the cause of her death, but it played a major role in the downward spiral of her health in addition to many other factors, such as smoking and drug use.
The Causes of Death
While she didn’t die from just one cause, sleep apnea did play a major role. Last month the coroner’s office stated sleep apnea contributed to Carrie Fisher’s death. Some of the other factors included:
- Atherosclerosis (a buildup of plaque in the arteries)
- Drug use
The coroner did not specify if it was illegal drugs or her current prescriptions for medical issues, but her past drug use did not help her health–that’s for sure. In addition to drug use, Fisher also smoked, which can greatly increase a person’s risk of developing coronary artery disease from atherosclerosis.
Her family did not seem surprised in the results and her brother stated, “If you want to know what killed her, it’s all of it.”
Sleep Apnea’s Role
Carrie Fisher has not hidden her struggles. In fact, she has been very vocal about her struggles with addiction and bipolar disorder, but what most people are not aware of is the sleep apnea diagnosis–it more than triples a person’s risk of death. This is especially true if they don’t know they have it. And while we don’t know if Fisher was aware of her diagnosis, we do know that it contributed to her death.
It is important to get our patients tested for sleep apnea as soon as possible. Whether it is through an at-home sleep study or an in-office study, it is important for your patients to seek diagnosis for proper treatment planning. Once a diagnosis has been made, oral appliance therapy is a great option to use.