James Gandolfini's Death: A Wake-Up Call for Heart Health

James Gandolfini

The sad news of James Gandolfini's death spread across the world as quickly as his star power did during his turn as Tony Soprano on the groundbreaking HBO series The Sopranos. Fans, friends and colleagues remembered the powerful Emmy-winning actor, who most likely died of a heart attack while vacationing in Italy at the age of 51. And while his death surely will continue to resonate among the entertainment industry, it's also a clear reminder about the heart disease epidemic in the U.S.

Whether it's James Gandolfini or any person on the street, one in four deaths in the United States are caused by heart disease according to the CDC -- totaling more than 600,000 deaths per year. More precise, 385,000 people die each year from coronary heart disease, which is caused by a buildup of plaque in the artieries and can lead to a heart attack. Of those deaths, more than half afflict men, and in many cases, initial warning signs may go unreported -- and 47% of sudden heart attack deaths happen outside of the hospital.

How can you tell if you have early warning signs of potential heart problems? The CDC lists these as key indicators:

- Chest pain or discomfort
- Upper body pain or discomfort in the arms, back, neck, jaw, or upper stomach
- Shortness of breath
- Nausea, lightheadedness, or cold sweats

Consult your doctor if you've experienced any of these symptoms, or if you have further questions. You can also find more information at CDC.gov and visit ETOnline for more on James Gandolfini's death.