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Here are four celebrities who live with congenital heart disease every day.

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Do you have a congenital heart defect? If so, you’re far from alone. Congenital heart issues affect approximately 40,000 people born each year in the U.S. and are one of the most common types of birth defects.

Having a congenital heart defect means you are born with a problem with the heart’s structure. Defects can involve the walls or valves of the heart, or they may affect the arteries and veins near the heart. They may also disrupt the normal flow of blood through the heart.

Many congenital heart defects cause few or no symptoms. In fact, in some people they can go undiagnosed for years. Advances in treatment have allowed many babies with known congenital heart disease to survive well into adulthood—and many people who have congenital heart disease go on to live long, productive lives. Here are stories of some celebrities with this condition:

    • Actor, body builder and former California Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger has always been known for his peak physique. But in the late 1970s, he was encouraged to see a cardiologist because his mother and grandmother had heart conditions. He was diagnosed with bicuspid aortic valve, which means his aortic valve only has two leaflets instead of three. Schwarzenegger has had three valve replacement procedures over the years, most recently in 2020.
    • Shaun White is known for his many awards in snowboarding and skateboarding. What is less known is that he was diagnosed with Tetralogy of Fallot as an infant. This complex heart defect causes the blood entering and leaving the heart to mix. White has undergone three surgeries to repair his heart, yet he hasn’t let it stop him from success. He has competed four times in the Winter Olympics and holds the record for the highest score in the men’s halfpipe.
    • In 2009, Miley Cyrus revealed that she has tachycardia. This is a non-life-threatening condition that makes the heart beat much faster than normal. This rapid heartbeat keeps the heart’s chambers from filling completely between contractions, which affects blood flow to the rest of the body. Luckily, a rapid heart rate doesn’t always need invasive treatment and the symptoms can be lessened by avoiding stress, alcohol, caffeine and nicotine.
    • After winning three Super Bowls with the New England Patriots, linebacker Tedy Bruschi thought he was at the peak of his career. Then he woke up with a migraine and numbness down the left side of his body. These were symptoms of a stroke, partially caused by an undiagnosed heart condition called patent foramen ovale, or a hole in the heart. This diagnosis led Bruschi to believe he’d never play football again but doctors were able to repair the hole. After 8 months of rehabilitation, he was able to return to the field.

Not everyone who has a congenital heart defect knows about it, so it’s important to be vigilant about the health of your heart. If you suspect you have a heart issue, either because you have symptoms or a family history of heart problems, see a doctor. Many heart conditions can be controlled or repaired once they’re diagnosed.


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Date Last Reviewed: December 13, 2021

Editorial Review: Andrea Cohen, Editorial Director, Baldwin Publishing, Inc. Contact Editor

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