Did James Gandolfini Suffer a Widow Maker’s Heart Attack?

James Gandolfini as Tony Soprano

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Gandolfini's Sudden Hear Attack on Holiday in Rome

The world woke to the shock news that James Gandolfini the actor who was best known for his iconic portrayal of troubled mobster Tony Soprano, had suddenly died yesterday, Wednesday 19th June, whilst on holiday in Rome, Italy aged 51. It is thought that he suffered a heart attack.

James Gandolfini in HBO’s ‘The Sopranos’

A stream of tributes have been pouring in from Hollywood and around the world for a man whose talent brought to life so vividly the conflicted existence of gangster boss at the heart of the iconic show The Sopranos, the best of the genre and an acclaimed small-screen series of the nineties to come out of America. It was Gandolfini’s performance in particular that propelled the show to its heights and cemented HBO, the channel that produced the series, to be a byword for ground breaking quality television.

“We’re all in shock and feeling immeasurable sadness at the loss of a beloved member of our family,” HBO said in a statement. “He was a special man, a great talent, but more importantly a gentle and loving person who treated everyone no matter their title or position with equal respect. He touched so many of us over the years with his humour, his warmth and his humility.”

The Sopranos

Gandolfini: acting ‘genius’ says David Chase

Sopranos creator David Chase’s statement of yesterday described Gandolfini’s acting “genius”, added “He is one of the greatest actors of this or any time. A great deal of that genius resided in those sad eyes. I remember telling him many times, ‘You don’t get it. You’re like Mozart.’ There would be silence at the other end of the phone… He wasn’t easy sometimes. But he was my partner, he was my brother in ways I can’t explain and never will be able to explain.”

Perhaps it was easy for James to bring his most famous screen character to life in such vivid terms because Gandolfini, like Tony Soprano, was an Italian-American from New Jersey. James was born on the 18th of September in 1961; he worked variously as a barman and a bouncer in his hometown, whilst taking an acting class. Lady fortune smiled on him in 1992 when he was cast alongside Jessica Lange and Alec Baldwin in a production of A Streetcar Named Desire in Broadway. This was followed by a supporting role as a gangster role in True Romance a film scripted by Quentin Tarantino. It was the experience of that role and his performance which paved the way to the part of Tony Soprano, a character that juggled an underworld life with an ostensibly sedate suburban family life. James Gandolfini inhabited the character of Tony Soprano for six series spanning eight years from 1999 to 2007. He was nominated for six Emmy Awards, winning three.

James Gandolfini is survived by his second wife Deborah Lin and their daughter Liliana, who was born in October, and a teenage son, Michael from his marriage to Marcy Wudarksi.

James Gandolfini and Son Michael

Tributes to ‘NJ Treasure’

A wonderful impromptu tribute was paid to Gandolfini on Wednesday night by fans of the show who turned up in force to an ice cream shop New Jersey where the final scene of The Sopranos was shot. The owner of the ice cream parlor set an empty table with a ‘Reserved’ sign in honour of Gandolfini’s memory. It was the table where 'Tony' and his family sat during filmimg of the last scenes of the series. The governor of New Jersey, Chris Christie’s tweet read “NJ treasure” about the actor.

James Gandolfini’s film career included supporting roles in Get Shorty (1995), Crimson Tide (1995), The Man Who Wasn’t There (2001), Killing Them Softly (2012) and Zero Dark Thirty (2012). He had been working on a US remake of the BBC series Criminal Justice for HBO before his sad and sudden demise.

Was it a Widow Maker Heart Attack?

Today’s news has brought to mind last year’s scare about the comedian Rosie O'Donnell who was lucky to survive a 'widow maker' heart attack in August 2012.

Following her heart attack, the comedian, 50, posted a poem on her about her near death experience where she described how she dismissed the symptoms putting them down to being a 'heavy' woman from a car. Rosie O’Donnell was a large lady at the time of her heart attack and the late James Gandolfini has been a fairly stout man for a while.

Rosie O’Donnell has continued to urge fans, and everyone else, to heed what their bodies are trying to tell them and not to delay in seeking medical intervention and help if they experience cardiac arrest symptoms, after she had risked her own life by ignoring hers.

The symptoms Rosie had felt were feelings of being bruised all over her body, she had also ignored the classic heart attack sign of aching chest and sore arms, because she put these very important bodily communications and heart disease symptoms down to muscular strain and injury.

There are more, but less well known, indicators typical of heart attack onset such as the feeling of nauseous, clammy skin, and heat flushes and vomiting. Ms O’Donnell admitted that she considered that 'Maybe this is a heart attack,' but did not call the emergency services. She the added 'I Googled women's heart attack symptoms....' and admits that '.. I had many of them but really? – I thought – naaaa.’ She wrote.

Despite dismissing her symptoms and not seeking official medical assistance immediately, Ms O’Donnell managed to take a prophylactic aspirin, which probably saved her life. She wrote that she was 'Saved by a TV commercial, literally'.

When she did visit her doctor the next day, she was given an electrocardiogram (EKG or ECG) test that checks he electrical activity of your heart for any irregularities or problems. This test resulted with her being fitted with a stent, a small mesh tube that's used to keep open narrow or weak arteries, because her left anterior descending artery was 99per cent blocked, the precise factor and condition that results in widow maker heart attacks.

The American Heart Association lists the following as signs and symptops that appear on the onset of a heart attack particularly for women:

  • Uncomfortable pressure, squeezing, fullness or pain in the center of your chest. It lasts more than a few minutes, or goes away and comes back.
  • Pain or discomfort in one or both arms, the back, neck, jaw or stomach.
  • Shortness of breath with or without chest discomfort.
  • Other signs such as breaking out in a cold sweat, nausea or lightheadedness.
  • The most common heart attack symptom is chest pain or discomfort.
  • But women are somewhat more likely than men to experience some of the other common symptoms, particularly shortness of breath, nausea/vomiting and back or jaw pain.


Diagnostic Testing for Heart Disease

Coronary Heart Disease Risk factors

The following factors and lifestyles as well as medical conditions may increase the risk of an early the onset of coronary heart disease or having a stroke accordining to the British Heart Foundation:

  • Living on a low income increases the risk factors for coronary heart disease and stroke, and are less likely to make healthy lifestyle choices.
  • Stress athough not a direct risk factor for cardiovascular disease, it does lead to coping mechanism that are considered risk increasing behaviours for eaxample smoking, drinking too much alcohol and overeating. all these activities increase the risk of developing cardiovascular disease when they are not kept within healthy limits. They can lead to abnormal heart rhythms, high blood pressure, the enlarging of the heart muscle and other diseases such as stroke, liver problems and some cancers.

When we get to our fourth decade of life it is a good idea to have a heart health assessment or cardiovascular risk assessment. This is a health check or assessment that can be carried out by your GP or practice nurse to find out if you have an increased risk of coronary heart disease.

The groups of people at most risk to heart attacks are those with High blood pressure, High cholesterol, overweight, withDiabetes, smokers and some ethnic groups and families that a prone to the condition

Please let me know what you think

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Comments 6 comments

Mabalani profile image

Mabalani 3 years ago from London Author

Foie de Gras eh! Before I learnt how the poor geese are made to produce foie de gras I loved it too.

Looking on thebright side, it must have been a lovely last meal. I can't stand monosodium glutamate, blahhh.


Healthyannie profile image

Healthyannie 3 years ago from Spain

Interesting but I am afraid that I have never heard of a Widow makers heart attack before. I think it is much more likely that poor James died out of Sudden Cardiac Death especially as his last meal consisted of Foie de Gras which is normally served sprinkled with Monosodium glutamate.


Mabalani profile image

Mabalani 3 years ago from London Author

Thank you for pointing out the definition faux par I made using the term NDE. I was compelled to investigate the definition so that I don't mislead esteemed Hubbers or anyone else interested in the topic.

NDEs turn out to be a complex and inexplicable array of feelings and sensations that range from out of body levitation, serenity, to the presence of a light. These phenomenon are usually reported if an individual survives after having been pronounced clinically dead or was very close to death.

I have no idea what sensations Rosie O'Donnell experienced and to that end your correction is very welcomed.

Oh you're quite right I should proof my pieces more rigorously.


Alice 3 years ago

P.S. Perhaps you could put all the information on this page into Microsoft Word to suss out the typos and errors... just a suggestion. I DO think it's very good information - bravo!! And those errors really are so easy to make! I make 'em ALL the time. But perhaps you can edit??

Just a suggestion. :-)


Alice 3 years ago

Please note that a "near-death experience" is a VERY specific thing. Rosie O'Donnell did not have an NDE. She nearly died - very big difference.

Good article, though!


Made profile image

Made 3 years ago from Finland

It's important to know the signs of a heart attack. Great hub! RIP James Gandolfini.

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