Pulmonary Hypertension Celebrity Stories: Natalie Cole

Patrícia Silva, PhD avatar

by Patrícia Silva, PhD |

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Natalie Maria Cole was destined to be famous right from her birth on February 6, 1950. Daughter of the legendary Nat King Cole, Natalie became a star herself and she was one of the most successful singer-songwriters from the mid-1970s. However, after a struggle with pulmonary hypertension, Natalie Cole died in 2015 from complications related to the condition. Pulmonary hypertension is a disease characterized by high blood pressure in the arteries of the lungs.

The exact causes for the development of the disease are not fully understood, but it is a severe condition since it weakens the heart over time. Known for R&B hits such as “This Will Be”, “Inseparable”, and “Our Love,” Natalie experienced the degradation caused by pulmonary hypertension. The disease often causes symptoms like shortness of breath during routine activity, tiredness, chest pain, a racing heartbeat, pain on the upper right side of the abdomen, and decreased appetite.

Even before the diagnosis, life wasn’t always successful and happy. Natalie Cole was away from the stage for a period of time due to drug addiction. However, she was able to recover and she re-emerged in 1987 with the album “Everlasting”. After that, she recorded her biggest success called “Unforgettable with Love” but in 2009, Natalie faced another obstacle in her life and had to be submitted for a kidney transplant. While the surgery was successful, she was diagnosed shortly after with pulmonary arterial hypertension (PAH).

Her sister remembered her fight and said that Natalie fought for years with the problem. Due to the high pressure, the blood vessels that carry blood from the heart to the lungs become hard and narrow, which obliges the heart to work harder in order to pump the blood. Natalie Cole was of the patients who ended up suffering from heart failure as a result. Despite the fact that she will always be best remembered for her music and success, after Natalie’s death, the family called attention to the severity of the disease.

“This is a very serious and progressive disorder. [Natalie Cole] responded well to PAH-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, despite modern therapies,” said her family in a statement cited by ABC. Natalie Cole died on December 31, 2015, at the Cedars-Sinai Medical Center in Los Angeles, California. According to the family, her last words were “I love you all.”.

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