Idiopathic Pulmonary Arterial Hypertension Tied to Natalie Cole’s Death

Patrícia Silva, PhD avatar

by Patrícia Silva, PhD |

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Natalie Cole

The legendary singer Natalie Cole, the daughter of Nat King Cole, died on New Year’s Eve at the Cedars-Sinai Hospital in Los Angeles of idiopathic pulmonary arterial hypertension (IPAH), which led to heart failure, according to a statement released by her family. She was 65.

Cole had battled health issues for years, including drug problems and hepatitis, for which she underwent a kidney transplant in 2009. The Cole family’s statement said that after receiving the kidney transplant, she was diagnosed with IPAH, a life-threatening condition that causes increased blood pressure in the pulmonary arteries that carry blood from the heart into the lungs. Patients with the condition often experience shortness of breath, dizziness, and chest pain. PAH can lead to right-sided heart failure and death.

According to a recent news release from the Associated Press, the family’s statement read: “(Cole) responded well to pulmonary arterial hypertension-specific agents over many years, during which she performed many concerts world-wide, but eventually succumbed to intractable right heart failure, an outcome that unfortunately commonly occurs in this progressive disorder.”

More than 1,000 Americans are estimated to be diagnosed with PAH each year. Sometimes the condition occurs without any identifiable cause, as was the case with Natalie Cole, and is referred to as idiopathic PAH. According to Wexner Medical Center at Ohio State University, IPAH occurs in about 1 in every 1 million patients each year. IPAH is more common in women, and usually diagnosed in young adults.

Natalie Cole began performing at age 6 with her father, and carved out her own success with R&B hits like “Our Love” and “This Will Be.” But her greatest musical triumph came in intertwining her talents with those of Nat King Cole’s in a tribute album whose title track, “Unforgettable,” plays like a father-daughter duet. Natalie Cole, in fact, had her greatest success in the 1991 re-recording of her father’s classic hits — including “Unforgettable” — on the album, “Unforgettable … With Love.” The recording became a multiplatinum smash and garnered her multiple Grammy Awards, including album of the year.

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