Actor James Gandolfini’s passed away last week on June 19 of a sudden heart attack in Rome at age 51. His sudden death of natural causes, as reported by hospital doctor, prompted heartfelt expression of shock and sorrow from his family and friends. Likewise, his sudden passing sparked general public concerns regarding men’s health and now puts the spotlight on silent killer: heart disease.

Heart disease is the number one killer of American men. A heart attack occurs when the heart muscle loses its blood supply, often because of a buildup of plaque in the arties. Sadly, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention states that about 50 percent of men who die from sudden heart attack have no previous symptoms, just like actor Gandolfini. The CDC also finds that one in ten heart disease deaths occur in people under the age of 55.

Several conditions, behaviors and hereditary factors can boost risk of heart disease including obesity, high cholesterol, high blood pressure, physical inactivity, smoking, excessive alcohol intake, and having a family history of heart disease. The National Institutes of Health also state that people with excessive fat around the waist line, creating an “apple-shape” body are particularly prone to heart disease.

Interestingly, just last week the American Medical Association brought attention to the issue of obesity and a new policy was adopted declaring obesity as a chronic disease.

Although, Gandolfini’s risk factors that led to sudden cardiac arrest are unclear, the actor was overweight, carried much excess fat around his middle, struggled with alcohol addiction, smoked, and consumed an unhealthy diet.

According to the New York Post, Gandolfini had struggled with alcohol addiction during his final weeks and had attended several Alcoholics Anonymous meeting in the past. Photos of Gandolfini vacationing in Rome before his death showed the actor looking haggard and spending a lot of time with a drink in his hand.

Also, Gandolfini’s last meal was a fried-food filled affair topped with eight alcoholic beverages. News sources reports Gandolfini would have consumed up to 2,730 calories with his last meal of back-to-back orders of fried prawns with mayonnaise chilli sauce, large portion of foie gras, two rounds of pina coladas, rum chasers, and two beers.

Dr. Cynthia Thaik strongly believes that one of the most important steps you can take to improve your health and prevent heart disease starts with what you put on your plate. To prevent risk of heart disease try eating a heart-healthy diet that emphasizes whole nutritious foods such as fruits, vegetables, legumes, whole grains, nuts, and seeds. Cut back on unhealthy foods, such as: processed meats, fried foods, high-fat dairy products, sodium, and fast foods. Like Hippocrates states several years ago, “Let your food be your medicine, and your medicine be your food.”

With Gandolfini, clearly his last meal was a recipe for a heart attack, containing more calories than a man needs in a day and a very high fat intake. However, of course other risk factors are to be considered, like is overweight problem, alcohol addiction and smoking. But how can other men prevent the risk of a heart attack? This devastating story has put a spotlight on heart disease and its many risk factors.

Find out how you can reduce the chances of a heart attack:

  • If you have high blood pressure, diabetes, or high cholesterol, take appropriate steps to control them and see your doctor.
  • If you’re overweight or obese, work with your doctor to create a reasonable weight-loss plan.
  • Consume a healthy diet that includes a variety of fruits and vegetables, as well as whole grains, nuts, seeds, legumes, fat-free dairy products, and lean proteins.
  • If you smoke, try to quit. Smoking can raise your risk for a heart attack.
  • Be physically active. Physical activity can improve your fitness level and your overall health.