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Death of Carrie Fisher is a warning about sleep apnea

Filed in
  • pop culture
  • heart disease
  • Sleep apnea

By Corinne Lederhouse  |  Jun 20, 2017
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By Riccardo Ghilardi photographer (Own work) [CC BY-SA 3.0 ( or GFDL (], via Wikimedia Commons

The American Academy of Sleep Medicine (AASM) has issued a statement following the announcement that actress Carrie Fisher’s cause of death was “sleep apnea and other undetermined factors.”

Her death reminds us just how dangerous sleep apnea can be, especially when it comes to heart health. Severe obstructive sleep apnea that isn’t treated can increase the risk of heart failure, high blood pressure, diabetes and stroke.

According to Fisher’s autopsy report, the Chief Medical Examiner concluded that sleep apnea was part of the immediate cause of death. The report noted her history of “severe sleep apnea.” Atherosclerotic heart disease was listed as another condition. Multiple drugs also were found in her system.

Millions of men and women with sleep apnea are unaware of it and remain undiagnosed. Obstructive sleep apnea is a common but serious sleep disorder that repeatedly causes you to stop breathing during sleep. The stress it causes for your heart and brain can have harmful long-term consequences for your health.

Sleep apnea symptoms include loud snoring, gasping during sleep, fatigue, and sleepiness during the day. People with high blood pressure and those who are obese are also at risk. Talk to your doctor if you have symptoms of sleep apnea. Your doctor may refer you to a sleep center for help.

The most common treatment for sleep apnea is CPAP therapy. Other treatment options include oral appliance therapy and surgery. Proper treatment can restore healthy sleep and decrease the risk of cardiovascular death.


  1. 1 Malcolm 21 Dec
    I am a carer who looks after a young lad in his 30s he has brain damage.He suffers from sleep apnea through the day ,some are wise than others,he has good days and bad days .Some of the episodes are very frightening his eyes roll into the back of his head .He can have as many as 20 fits a day ,is there a solution please it's getting very worrying.He can't talk so we can't communicate very well .have you any suggestions regards Malcolm.
  2. 2 Claire 19 Feb
    Her autopsy showed cocaine, opiates, methadone, alcohol and ecstasy in her system, but her actual cause of death was sleep apnea? Really??? I am guessing the drugs played a larger role.
  3. 3 UDIONG JOSEPH 22 May
  4. 4 Lisa 31 Mar
    I asked if I would die if I didn't wear a mask on my face, and I was told I would, but sleep apnea doesn't kill directly - it's the complications that come with it.
  5. 5 danielkalista 08 Jul
    I was diagnosed with severe sleep apnea and was 198 in weight. I managed to loose that weight and am now 155.  My cortisol level went up to 22 in the morning with weight and now it is 16. Music therapy and proper eating with 3 days a week of aerobic activity for 25 minutes on my indoor bike helped.  I am dealing with chronic severe periodic limb movement disorder with significant movements at night now.  I'm still here at age 63  so I must be doing something right and really want to have a long life.  My birth mom only lived to 51 I found out recently.  It is a lot of self care daily but it is worth it in the long run.  Good luck .  Dan Kalista