What can we learn from Ernie Banks’ sudden passing?

What can we learn from Ernie Banks’ sudden passing?

Cubs Nation mourned the sudden passing of Mr. Cub Ernie Banks who died after suffering a heart attack at age 83 last week.

The Chicago Cubs icon, the team’s first African-American player and enthusiastic supporter, famously encouraged his team with the statement “Let’s play two.” Banks joined the Cubs in 1953 and was a back-to-back MVP title winner in 1958 and 1959. He retired in 1971 after a long, illustrious career leading to his induction in the 1977 Baseball Hall of Fame.

“Ernie Banks’ legacy extends far beyond his Hall of Fame stats,” says Mayor Rahm Emanuel in a statement. “He was beloved by generations of people for the way he played on the field and—more importantly—for the kind and warm person he was off the field.”

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), an estimated 600,000 people die from heart disease every year. That amounts to about one in four U.S. deaths annually. And that threat goes up as you age, with 84 percent of people age 65 and older dying from heart disease.

Dr. Ajay Baddi, cardiologist at Advocate Illinois Masonic Medical Center in Chicago, says seniors should pay particular attention to their health and lifestyle habits to decrease their risk of heart disease and possible death.

“Everyone, even into their golden years, should try to stay as active as possible, getting the recommended 20 to 30 minutes of aerobic exercise a week, along with some limited strength training,” Dr. Baddi says. “Eat right, avoiding reds meats, opting for leafy green vegetables, and maintain a healthy weight.”

He says it’s particularly important for seniors to know their specific heart risks, including high blood pressure, high cholesterol and blood sugar levels.

“If you smoke, quitting is really very important, as well,” says Dr. Baddi. “Be sure you see your primary care physician for regular physicals to keep track of your specific risk factors.”

He says the symptoms of heart disease don’t often appear until your actually having a heart attack, so knowing the signs and symptoms is important to know when to seek immediate help. According to the American Heart Association, the typical signs of a heart attack include:

  • Chest discomfort—Most heart attacks involve discomfort in the center of the chest that lasts more than a few minutes or that goes away and comes back. It can feel like uncomfortable pressure, squeezing, fullness or pain.
  • Discomfort in other areas of the upper body—Symptoms can include pain or discomfort in one or both arms, the back, neck, jaw or stomach.
  • Shortness of breath—This may or not be accompanied by chest discomfort.
  • Breaking out in a cold sweat
  • Nausea
  • Lightheadedness or dizziness

“If you think you may be experiencing a heart attack, it’s important to get to the nearest emergency room as quickly as possible,” Dr. Baddi says. “The sooner you receive treatment, the less permanent damage there may be to your heart.”

Do you know your risk for heart disease? Take our heart risk assessment here. If you are at high risk, see one of Advocate Heart Institute’s cardiologists within 24 hours.

Photo courtesy of  Hulton Archive.


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  1. Ernie was almost 84 years old!! What if he did everything the medical profession recommends and he still had the sudden passing???

  2. I suffered a hear attack more than 25 years ago. I only had a symptom of feeling weak. I believe that should be recognized as a warning sign.

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health enews Staff
health enews Staff

health enews staff is a group of experienced writers from our Advocate Health Care and Aurora Health Care sites, which also includes freelance or intern writers.