Posted September 13, 2012 by James in News

5 Health Professionals Who Died Suddenly

Death. It’s a serious subject, usually. All of us pretty much act like it’ll never come our way. Sometimes, though, the Reaper sneaks up on you and you don’t have time to fend him off. Being a health professional doesn’t make you immune. You haven’t done anything wrong…you might have done everything right, but death happens to you anyway, in a most unexpected – and sometimes ironic – way. Much like these five guys:

1. Robert C. Atkins, Founder of the Atkins Diet

He came up with what some people believe was one of the best diets of all time. He was famous for it, and his name was all over the place.

As a cardiologist, Atkins knew what kinds of problems a person who was overweight and didn’t eat right could have with their heart, and the rest of their body. Without counting on superfoods like Acai Berry, he changed the way a lot of people ate, and he was a best-selling author, publishing thirteen books.

He was also a much-sought-after public speaker and a champion of natural healing instead of medications. He slipped and fell one cold and icy morning while walking to work. He suffered head trauma, had surgery to remove a blood clot on his brain, and died from complications just a few days later. He was seventy-two.

It came out later that Atkins, who had a history of heart trouble, was two hundred and fifty-eight pounds when he died. On his six-foot frame, that would qualify the diet guru as obese. Yes, you read that right. The diet author, the man who revolutionized the way America ate for weight loss, was fat when he died. His widow said that – and his heart condition – had nothing to do with his diet…he was bloated from an undisclosed medical condition. Maybe. Maybe not. Either way, he changed the lives of a lot of people for the better.

2. Mark Hughes, Founder of Herbalife

The man who founded Herbalife did it because he wanted to help people. His mother had died of an overdose of diet pills when Hughes was just eighteen, all because she was struggling to lose a bit of weight. He didn’t want anyone else to have to go through that, so he started a company where people could get natural supplements and herbal products and lose weight safely.

And then he started something else…getting into trouble because of the claims he was making. The FDA and some other organizations with lots of initials in their names started to get annoyed. They said that Herbalife didn’t do what it was supposed to, and Hughes was just taking people’s money. He settled out of court and went on with his life and his company. He died in his sleep at forty-four.

The man who touted natural supplements and powders was autopsied, and the results were conclusive: he died of a drug overdose! A ‘toxic level’ of antidepressants mixed with alcohol, and he never woke up. The death was eerily like that of his mother’s passing, years before. Hughes was allegedly taking the antidepressant to treat insomnia, but it seems a bit odd that a man who had reportedly spent his life creating herbal supplements so people did not have to take medications would himself succumb to death as a result of overmedication. The rest of the story will likely never be known, but there must be more to it than that.

3. Jerome Irving Rodale, Founder of Rodale Press, Organic Gardening Magazine, Men’s Health Magazine and Prevention Magazine

He definitely wanted to provide health and healing information for others, and he advocated sustainability and organic/green living well before it became the ‘in’ thing to do. He started a big publishing company and published a lot of books and magazines. Rodale also bragged about how healthy he was. At seventy-two, he made a guest appearance on The Dick Cavett Show and was talking and laughing about how he fell down a flight of stairs the day before and laughed all the way because he was so healthy. He gave the opinion that nothing could stop him…and then he dropped dead of a heart attack while the show was being taped. It seems he wasn’t as healthy as he thought he was, but his ideas about organic living and sustainability live on, and they’re healthier than ever.

4. Ryan Shay, Marathon Runner

Athletes who run marathons and endurance races are thought to be basically the healthiest people on the planet, but ironically, what makes them so good at running might have contributed to the death of one of them.

Ryan Shay was only twenty-eight when he collapsed and died about 5.5 miles into the U.S. men’s marathon Olympic trials. They knew he had an enlarged heart – he’d been diagnosed with it since he was fourteen, but he’d been cleared by his doctors to go ahead and run. The heart of an athlete is often bigger than normal. They pump a lot of blood, so they expand to handle it. Shay left behind a wife and a lot of people who cared about him. You never think that being healthy can kill you.

5. Sergei Mikhailovich Grinkov, Olympic Gold Medalist

Sometimes your genetics are what gets you, and you don’t always know that you might be predisposed to something. When you’re just twenty-eight, like Sergei Grinkov, you don’t think that much about it, especially if you’re an athlete, because athletes and good health usually go hand in hand. But Grinkov was different.

He had a genetic predisposition to having a heart attack at a young age, and an autopsy showed that his coronary arteries were so clogged that blood was moving through an opening not any bigger than a pinhole. The strain that was put on his heart from that, coupled with his skating, was too much to bear.

He died of a massive heart attack while practicing for a Stars on Ice tour. Some say that he was doing a lift with his wife at the time, holding her tiny, 90-pound frame over his head; others say that she didn’t even want an autopsy done after his death. None of those things are actually relevant. What is relevant is that skating lost a great athlete and a wife lost her husband.