James Gandolfini Was ‘Walking Time Bomb,’ Says Top Heart Doctor

James Gandolfini in his role as Tony Soprano, head of the New Jersey crime family portrayed in HBO's "The Sopranos." Gandolfini's portrayal of Tony Soprano represented more than just a memorable TV character. He changed the medium, making fellow antiheroes like Walter White and Don Draper possible, and shifted the balance in quality drama away from broadcast television. Gandolfini died Wednesday, June 19, 2013, in Italy. He was 51. (AP Photo/HBO, Barry Wetcher, File)

For many of us, summer vacation is a time when we eat too much, drink too much, do too much physically, and perhaps neglect to take our medications.

That’s why vacation heart attacks like the one apparently suffered by TV star James Gandolfini are tragically common, a top cardiologist tells Newsmax Health.

“The Sopranos” actor Gandolfini, 51, died suddenly on Wednesday during a trip to Rome.

“When you’re on vacation, you don’t eat the same way that you do when you’re at home. People tend to indulge, and that can lead directly to a heart attack,” said Chauncey Crandall, M.D.

An autopsy is scheduled that may determine the official cause of Gandolfini’s death, but those close to him say it appeared he suffered a massive heart attack.

A holiday heart attack is a surprisingly common phenomenon, said Dr. Crandall, chief of the cardiac transplant program at the world-renowned Palm Beach Cardiovascular Clinic.

“Heart attacks often manifest on holidays when you’re not eating the normal meals,” he said.

“You eat excessively, indulging in high fatty foods, and this causes the blood to thicken. The result is a blood clot, which can rupture, resulting in the blockage of blood flow to the heart, causing heart attack and sudden death.”

The Emmy-winning actor was most known for his role as Tony Soprano in the hit HBO series “The Sopranos.”

He was in Italy celebrating the eighth-grade graduation of his 13-year-old son, Michael, and was to appear at a film festival in Sicily. According to news reports, his son discovered Gandolfini stricken in his hotel room.

An ambulance rushed him to the hospital, but he was pronounced dead shortly thereafter.

Dr. Crandall notes an amazing statistic: if a person has a heart attack outside of a hospital, they only have a 7 percent chance of survival.

This is why monitoring warning signals and prevention are so key, he argues.

Although Gandolfini may seem young to have suffered a heart attack, this is an all-too-common scenario for men his size, said Dr. Crandall.

The actor was reportedly 6-foot-1 and weighed about 275 pounds.

“He was a walking time bomb,” said Dr. Crandall.

Heart disease generally starts decades before it is diagnosed, Dr. Crandall said.

“The bottom line was that he was an overweight, probably inactive, and he had multiple risk factors.”

Considering the actor’s size, and reports that he was a heavy eater and drinker, Dr. Crandall speculated that “he probably had elevated blood pressure, and may have had metabolic syndrome.”

Metabolic syndrome is a set of conditions, which includes a large waistline, high triglycerides, and high cholesterol that dangerously hike heart attack risk.

Also, given the actor’s weight, he may very well also have had sleep apnea, a common sleep disorder that hikes heart attack risk, Dr. Crandall added.

Following a plant-based diet, exercising, and “clean living,” can reverse such risk factors, but too often those in the spotlight or with high-powered jobs refuse to make those changes, said Dr. Crandall.

“When you’re in the entertainment industry, you are at high risk of death from cardiac causes or from drugs,” said Dr. Crandall, who added, “Unfortunately, this was a sad case that had clear warning signs.”