Online Anatomy Education

Famous People Who Died of Heart Attacks

Famous People Who Died of Heart Attacks


Being famous brings with it many perks such as great fortune, rubbing shoulders with other celebs, and leaving behind some legacy. However, no matter how well-known, rich, powerful, or accomplished a person becomes, there comes a time to ‘pay for the ride.’ Heart attacks have been the cause of death for many actors, business people, politicians, and even once-virile athletes who may have been the ideal picture of health in their prime.

We’ve compiled a short list of famous people who have died of heart attacks, what they were famous for, and when possible, other information such as what they were doing when they died. We look into whether what they were famous for had some correlation with their cause of death.


Orville Redenbacher

Orville Clarence Redenbacher

Famous for: Popcorn!

This man spent decades of his spare time experimenting with corn hybrids until he and a partner designed a breed they deemed to be responsible for the perfect popcorn. Already an accomplished agricultural scientist, Redenbacher’s popcorn became the leading brand in the US. He is reported to have died by having a heart attack while in a spa and, unfortunately, drowning thereafter.

Born: July 16, 1907, Brazil, Indiana, US

Died: September 19, 1995, Coronado, California, US

Was it the popcorn? The links below offer different opinions on how healthy popcorn is, or isn’t.


Henry Nestle

Heinrich Nestlé

Famous for: Chocolate! And a few other things you may have heard of.

Heinrich Nestlé is responsible for founding what would become perhaps the worlds largest multinational food and beverage corporation in the world. Today, Nestlé has its hands in just about everything, including instant coffee, chocolate, bottled water, pet food, candy, and pharmaceuticals, to name just a few of their product types. When Heinrich was alive, he was a pharmacists, a confectioner, and responsible for the first formula for infants, among other things. Nestlé died at home. There are specious claims on Wikipedia and other sites that he died of a heart attack, while other sources state that he died of heart failure.

Born: August 10, 1814 Frankfurt, Germany

Died: July 7, 1890, Montreal, Switzerland

Was it the chocolate? Below are a few articles discussing chocolate and health.


Jimmy Dean

Jimmy Ray Dean Dean

Famous for: Sausage!

Jimmy Dean started out as a country singer and an actor. Later in life, he became well known for Jimmy Dean Sausage, which he self-promoted in US TV commercials. His company, Jimmy Dean, became well known for other products such as bacon, breakfast bowls, pancake and sausage on a stick, and about a dozen more products you may have heated up in your microwave or skillet for an American breakfast. He passed away at 81 years of age while eating in front of the television. His wife said he only had a few health problems and Jimmy’s heart attack came as a shock to her.

Born: August 10, 1928, Plainview, Texas, US

Died: June 13, 2010, Varina, Virginia, US

Was it the sausage? Below are some links related to sausage, processed meats, and how they relate to overall health.


Ivan the Terrible

Ivan the Terrible

Famous for: Being a Russian Tzar, Massacre of Novgorod, keeping enemies in fear, paranoia, rage, various raids and conquests, oh, and playing chess!

According to some sources, Ivan the Terrible died of a heart attack before a game of chess, but other sources say his fate was sealed during the game. Still, other sources attribute his death to a stroke.

Born: August 25, 1530, Grand Duchy of Moscow

Died: March 28 1584, Moscow, Tsardom of Russia

Was it the chess? Probably not, but it’s interesting to note that many great chess players have had heart attacks during the game. Other notable chess-related heart attacks include Vladimir Barigov, Kurt Meier, and Leonid Stein. Interestingly, Barigov and Meier both had heart attacks during the same chess tournament.

Yes, but really, was it the chess? Below are some links to pages discussing chess and health.


Red Foxx

Red Foxx

Famous for: Stand up comedy and Sanford and Son!

Red Foxx was an American actor and comedian. He was known for his blue comedy on stage and for his role as Fred G. Sanford, the owner of a junk yard and father of the show’s protagonist, Lamont. Foxx died while rehearsing for an episode of The Royal Family. December 9, 1922, St. Louis, Missouri October 11, 1991

Was it the comedy? Some people like to exaggerate by stating that they almost died laughing. Yet, others say that laughter is the best medicine. Below are a few links related to laughter and health.


Jackie Robinson

Jackie Robinson

Famous for: Baseball!

Jackie Robinson is a Hall of Fame Baseball Player, the first African-American Major League Baseball player, the first African-American baseball commentator for the MLB, and a first in many other endeavors. He also contributed significantly to the civil rights movement in the US. Robinson died at home of a heart attack.

Born: January 31, 1919, Cairo, Georgia, US

Died: October 24, 1972 Stamford Connecticut, US

Was it baseball? Doubtful. Auto crashes, suicide, homicide, tuberculosis, typhoid fever, to name a few causes, are more common among active players.

He made it through all of that! So what about baseball players who died after their careers? This interesting article suggests that baseball players live longer than most people.


Burt Reynolds

Burt Reynolds

Famous for: Acting, producing, and directing!

Burt Reynolds had a long list of well known movies he had acted in, including Smokey and the Bandit, Boogie Nights, and the Longest Yard. He was known for being a physical actor, having performed many of his own stunts. He died at the age of 82 in Jupiter Hospital after a caretaker at his home reported Burt had been experiencing some chest pain.

Born: February 11, 1936, Lansing Michigan, US

Died: September 6, 2018, Jupiter Florida, US

Was it all the stunts? Reynolds suffered many injuries during his career. These included: a broken tailbone received from hitting a rock when he went over a waterfall in the film Deliverance, as well as a broken jaw from being hit in the face with a real chair rather than a balsa wood chair. The latter injury lead to an addiction to pain killers.

Was it the fame? Reynolds did amass great wealth from his film, but also filed for bankruptcy during his lifetime. He was married and divorced more than once, reportedly having relationships that left him with stress, lawsuits, and anxiety. On top of all of this, he was constantly in the public eye, furthering the potential for a stressful lifestyle.

Below are some links on stress and heart attacks.

Last reviewed by on Sep 6, 2019

Katie Morris has practiced in a variety of inpatient settings as an RN. She is currently pursuing a degree at Georgetown University to become a women's health nurse practitioner.

Was this article helpful?