Celebrities with Atrial Fibrillation
In January 31, 2004, Manilow was treated for stress-related chest pains during a
24-hour stay at the Desert Regional Medical Center in Palm Springs, California.
Manilow was rushed to the hospital after two days of arbitration in a lawsuit
where he was fighting to win back the rights to the original stage musical Harmony from producer Mark
Schwartz. Manilow was diagnosed with an atrial fibrillation. After his heart rate returned to normal,
doctors permitted him to return home.
"I honestly had no idea that AFib was so common or that the disease has
so many serious health risks."
Although he first experienced AFib symptoms in the 1990s, Manilow admits that he
had never heard of the disease until he was diagnosed with it.
"The first time I felt my AFib, I was at a point in my life when I was pushing myself
very hard, which isn't unusual," he recalls. "So, when I first started feeling a strange sensation in my chest, I
just tried to ignore it.
At first, it just felt like my heart was skipping a series of beats every so
Before long, however, the symptoms became more intense and prolonged, until they
finally became so disruptive that he sometimes couldn't focus on important daily activities.
"It felt like there was a fish flopping around in my chest. Believe it or not, I
literally saw stars," he recalls. "That's when I first went to the hospital and started working with my doctor to
get my AFib under control.
Realizing that something was wrong with my heart definitely motivated me to take the
Manilow spent the next several years in and out of the hospital, struggling to keep
his heart in rhythm.
"I've had bouts of AFib when I've been on tour, not knowing how to locate the nearest
medical facility. I've gone into AFib during media interviews, struggling to keep everything in check and make it
to the end. I've had three surgical procedures, and had my heart shocked back into rhythm more times than I
can even remember.
Once, I even had to be cardioverted on the same day that I was scheduled to do a
live concert on national TV for the Fourth of July! I was literally in the hospital just a few hours before walking
on a stage to sing in front of an audience of millions. Talk about bad timing!"
Recently, Manilow has re-committed himself to learning more about his AFib. He
describes the learning experience as an eye-opener.
"I honestly had no idea that AFib was so common, or that many patients don't feel any
symptoms at all," Manilow says. "That blew me away, because when I go into AFib, there's no way to ignore
My symptoms are sudden, disruptive, and can be very frightening." Just as
importantly, Manilow learned that AFib poses numerous long-term health risks if not appropriately
"I now realize that there are so many risks that come with AFib, and it’s important
to understand all of them," Manilow says. "Protecting yourself from stroke is only part of the plan.
There still can be big – and permanent – risks if you don't get your heart back in
rhythm. Many people may not know if their management plan is meeting that goal."
Among those risks, being out of rhythm can permanently change the shape of your
heart, causing it to work harder and harder over time. The longer your heart’s in AFib, the more difficult it
is to get it back in rhythm and the worse the disease will become.
"I've never shared my experience before, but after all that I've learned about
AFib and its risks I'm excited to be getting the word out," says Manilow.
"AFib needs more awareness. Patients need more education. No one should
settle for a life out of rhythm."