How to Fat Shame: Diagnose James Gandolfini

James Gandolfini

The actor James Gandolfini, passed away, and the fat-shamers feel free to speak their peace at work, on the train, and everywhere else people congregate. Reports indicate that Gandolfini passed away from sudden cardiac, and was found in his hotel room in Rome on Wednesday night. The poor man hasn’t even been laid to rest, and I’m already hearing, “What do you expect, being that big?” and “Well, he was really fat!”

Great, because you have seen a few pictures of Tony Soprano , are you qualified to diagnose the cause of his heart attack? Um, no. No, you’re not.

We don’t know the medical history of Tony Soprano. We don’t know the history of heart disease in his family, or the medications he was taking, or anything about his medical history. Unless you perform the autopsy, you don’t have all of the facts, and comments on his weight are not helpful, and they are rude.

Gandolfini’s Work and Personal Life

Gandolfini is best known for his portrayal of mob boss Tony Soprano in the hit HBO series The Sopranos, but he was also well-known for his active involvement with the armed forces, including production of the HBO documentary Wartorn: 1861-2010, which explored the effects of PTSD in soldiers.  

Soprano leaves behind his wife, thirteen-year-old son, and infant daughter. He was fifty-one years old, and in my estimation, that’s far too young to die. The poor man hasn’t been laid to rest, and already people feel the need to use him as a cautionary tale, but it isn’t fair to use him as a cautionary tale when you don’t include all of the facts.

Causes of Heart Attack (AKA: the Facts)

The fact of the matter is, none of us know what caused Gandolfini’s heart attack. Is this a good time to learn about heart health? Sure, I’ll buy it. Let’s talk about heart health. The National Heart Lung and Blood Institute does warn that there are some risk factors for heart attack within your control, and they include:

  1. Smoking
  2. High blood pressure
  3. High blood cholesterol
  4. Overweight and obesity
  5. An unhealthy diet (for example, a diet high in saturated fat, trans fat, cholesterol, and sodium)
  6. Lack of routine physical activity

There, we talked about weight. But the very same page of risk factors also includes some things you can’t control (and they’re incredibly salient factors) such as:

  1. Age. The risk of heart disease increases for men after age 45 and for women after age 55 (or after menopause).
  2. Family history of early heart disease. Your risk increases if your father or a brother was diagnosed with heart disease before 55 years of age, or if your mother or a sister was diagnosed with heart disease before 65 years of age.

Where’s the talk about his age and his family history on the train? I haven’t heard any. All I’ve heard is pure nastiness about the man’s waistline.

If James Gandolfini’s last contribution to this Earth is a conversation about heart health, then let’s honor his memory and have an honest discussion, because simply declaring his weight the problem isn’t taking the full picture into account.

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