Pop superstar George Michael has passed away on Christmas Day at his home at the age of 53, his publicist has announced.
George Michael, who launched his career with Wham! in the ‘80s and had huge success as a solo performer, “passed away peacefully” in Goring, Oxfordshire.
Thames Valley Police say they are treating the death as unexplained but there were no suspicious circumstances.
Former Wham! bandmate Andrew Ridgeley said he was “heartbroken at the loss of my beloved friend”.
Writing on Twitter and referring to George Michael as “Yog”, a nickname for “Yours Only George”, Andrew Ridgeley added: “Me, his loved ones, his friends, the world of music, the world at large. 4ever loved. A xx”
Elton John posted on Instagram a picture of himself with George Michael, writing: “I am in deep shock. I have lost a beloved friend – the kindest, most generous soul and a brilliant artist. My heart goes out to his family and all of his fans.”
Image source Wikimedia
George Michael’s family announced news of his death in a statement issued through the singer’s publicist.
The statement said: “It is with great sadness that we can confirm our beloved son, brother and friend George passed away peacefully at home over the Christmas period.
“The family would ask that their privacy be respected at this difficult and emotional time. There will be no further comment at this stage.”
South Central Ambulance Service had been called to George Michael’s property at 13:42 GMT.
Thames Valley Police said its officers also attended and George Michael was confirmed dead at the scene.
Police added: “At this stage the death is being treated as unexplained but not suspicious. A post-mortem will be undertaken in due course. There will be no further updates from Thames Valley Police until the post-mortem has taken place.”
George Michael’s manager, Michael Lippman, gave the cause of death as heart failure.
A small heart wreath and a rose are among the tributes that have begun to be left outside the front door of the superstar’s home, a detached property by the River Thames.
George Michael, who was born Georgios Kyriacos Panayiotou in north London, sold more than 100 million albums throughout a career spanning almost four decades.
The musician first found fame with schoolfriend Andrew Ridgeley in duo Wham! – reaching No 1 in the UK singles charts on four occasions – before going on to release solo albums, including the multi-million selling Faith in 1987.
The follow-up Listen Without Prejudice Vol. 1 outsold Faith in the UK but led to George Michael losing a court case with record label Sony over his frustration at how the album has been marketed.
As a solo artist, George Michael scored a further seven No 1 singles in the UK with songs including Careless Whisper and Fastlove, collaborated with the likes of Aretha Franklin and Elton John, and won three Brit Awards and two Grammys.
George Michael later began facing headlines for the wrong reasons.
In October 2006, the singer pleaded guilty to driving while unfit through drugs, and in 2008 was cautioned for possession of class A drugs, including crack cocaine.
In September 2010, George Michael received an eight-week prison sentence following an incident in which he crashed his Range Rover into a shop in north London. He admitted driving under the influence of drugs and possessing cannabis.
Earlier this month it was announced that producer and songwriter Naughty Boy was working with George Michael on a new album.
A documentary film entitled Freedom was due for release in March 2017.
In 2011, George Michael postponed a series of concerts after being taken to hospital for treatment for pneumonia.
After treatment in a Vienna hospital, the musician made a tearful appearance outside his London home and said it had been “touch and go” whether he lived.
Doctors were reported to have performed a tracheotomy to keep his airways open and George Michael was unconscious for some of his spell in hospital.
After years of refusing to be drawn on speculation about his sexuality, George Michael disclosed he was gay in 1998 after being was arrested in a public toilet in Beverly Hills, California.
A new study published in the British Medical Journal has found that exercise can be as good as pills for people with conditions such as heart disease.
The study looked at hundreds of trials involving nearly 340,000 patients to assess the merits of exercise and drugs in preventing death.
Physical activity rivaled some heart drugs and outperformed stroke medicine.
The findings suggest exercise should be added to prescriptions, say the researchers.
Exercise can be as good as pills for people with conditions such as heart disease
Experts stressed that patients should not ditch their drugs for exercise – rather, they should use both in tandem.
Too few adults currently get enough exercise. Only a third of people in England do the recommended 2.5 hours or more of moderate-intensity activity, such as cycling or fast walking, every week.
In contrast, prescription drug rates continue to rise.
There were an average of 17.7 prescriptions for every person in England in 2010, compared with 11.2 in 2000.
For the study, scientists based at the London School of Economics, Harvard Pilgrim Health Care Institute at Harvard Medical School and Stanford University School of Medicine trawled medical literature to find any research that compared exercise with pills as a therapy.
They identified 305 trials to include in their analysis. These trials looked at managing conditions such as existing heart disease, stroke rehabilitation, heart failure and pre-diabetes.
When they studied the data as a whole, they found exercise and drugs were comparable in terms of death rates.
But there were two exceptions.
Drugs called diuretics were the clear winner for heart failure patients, while exercise was best for stroke patients in terms of life expectancy.
New data suggests that two common painkillers, ibuprofen and diclofenac, can slightly increase the risk of heart problems if taken in high doses for a long time.
People with severe arthritis often take the drugs, which also calm inflammation, to go about daily life.
The researchers said some patients would deem the risk acceptable, but they should be given the choice.
A study, published in the Lancet, showed the drugs posed even greater risks for smokers and the overweight.
The risks have been reported before, but a team of researchers at the University of Oxford analyzed the issue in unprecedented detail in order to help patients make an informed choice.
The group investigated more than 353,000 patient records from 639 separate clinical trials to assess the impact of non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs.
They looked at high-dose prescriptions levels, rather than over-the-counter pain relief, of 150 mg diclofenac or 2,400 mg ibuprofen each day.
They showed that for every 1,000 people taking the drugs there would be three additional heart attacks, four more cases of heart failure and one death as well cases of stomach bleeding – every year as a result of taking the drugs.
Common painkillers ibuprofen and diclofenac can slightly increase the risk of heart problems if taken in high doses for a long time
So the number of heart attacks would increase from eight per 1,000 people per year normally, to 11 per 1,000 people per year with the drugs.
“Three per thousand per year sounds like it is quite a low risk, but the judgement has to be made by patients,” said lead researcher Prof. Colin Baigent.
He added: “So if you’re a patient and you go and sit in front of your doctor and discuss it, you are the one who should be making the judgement about whether three per thousand per year is worth it to allow you, potentially, to go about your daily life.”
He said this should not concern people taking a short course of these drugs, for example for headaches.
However, he did warn that those already at risk of heart problems would be at even greater risk as a result of the high-dose drugs.
High blood pressure, cholesterol and smoking all increase the risk of heart problems.
Prof. Colin Baigent said: “The higher your risk of heart disease, the higher your risk of a complication. Roughly speaking, if you’ve got double the risk of heart disease, then the risk of having a heart attack is roughly doubled.”
He said patients should consider ways to reduce their risk, which could include statins for some patients.
A similar drug called rofecoxib (known as Vioxx), was voluntarily taken off the market by its manufacturer in 2004 after similar concerns were raised.
A third drug, naproxen, had lower risks of heart complications in the study and some doctors are prescribing this to higher-risk patients.
The drug does a similar job to aspirin by stopping the blood from clotting although this also increases the odds of a stomach bleed.
A Norwegian study has found that people who have trouble drifting off to sleep may be at increased risk of heart failure.
The study, published in the European Heart Journal, followed more than 50,000 people for 11 years.
Scientists found those who suffered several nights of poor sleep were more likely to develop the condition, in which the heart fails to pump properly.
Experts say further research is needed to see if a lack of sleep causes heart failure or the link is more complex.
Scientists at the Norwegian University of Science and Technology looked at more than 50,000 people aged between 20 and 89. At the beginning of the study, none of them were known to have heart failure.
In this condition the muscles of the heart are often too out of shape to do their job properly – they may be too weak or too stiff to pump blood around the body at the right pressure.
People with the disorder may feel increasingly breathless and exhausted.
And as heart failure worsens, it can be difficult to get a full night’s rest – but the Norwegian study is one of few to investigate whether poor sleepers without the condition are at risk of getting it in later life.
A Norwegian study has found that people who have trouble drifting off to sleep may be at increased risk of heart failure
During the research, the participants were asked whether they had any difficulties getting to sleep or staying asleep and whether they felt fully restored after a night’s slumber.
People who had trouble falling asleep and remaining asleep each night were three times more likely to develop heart failure than those who reported no trouble sleeping.
Those who experienced substandard sleep that failed to leave them fully refreshed were also at risk.
And this link between a bad night’s sleep and heart failure remained true despite researchers taking smoking, obesity and other well known triggers of insomnia and heart problems into account.
The researchers say it is unclear exactly why poor sleep and heart failure are associated in this way.
Dr. Lars Erik Laugsand, lead author of the study, said: “We don’t know whether insomnia truly causes heart failure. But if it does, the good thing is it is a potentially treatable condition.
“So evaluating sleep problems might provide additional information in the prevention of heart failure.”
He suggests the lack of sleep may provoke harmful responses in the body.
“When you have insomnia your body releases stress hormones which in turn may effect the heart in a negative way,” he said.
The same team of researchers has previously reported a link between people prone to insomnia and heart attacks.
And diabetes, depression and poor brain function have all been linked to missing restful hours in bed.
Researchers warn that extreme exercise, such as marathons, may permanently damage the heart and trigger rhythm abnormalities.
They say the safe “upper limit” for heart health is a maximum of an hour a day – after which there is little benefit to the individual.
A review of research evidence by US physicians says intensive training schedules and extreme endurance competitions can cause long-term harm to people’s hearts.
Activities such as marathons, iron man distance triathlons, and very long distance bicycle races may cause structural changes to the heart and large arteries, leading to lasting injury.
Lead author Dr. James O’Keefe, of Saint Luke’s Hospital of Kansas City, said exercise was generally beneficial for health but could tip into becoming harmful when taken to excessive lengths.
Dr. James O’Keefe said: “Physical exercise, though not a drug, possesses many traits of a powerful pharmacologic agent.
“A routine of daily physical activity can be highly effective for prevention and treatment of many diseases, including coronary heart disease, hypertension, heart failure, and obesity.
“However, as with any pharmacologic agent, a safe upper dose limit potentially exists, beyond which the adverse effects of physical exercise, such as musculoskeletal trauma and cardiovascular stress, may outweigh its benefits.”
A review of research evidence by US physicians says intensive training schedules and extreme endurance competitions can cause long-term harm to people’s hearts
A review published in the medical journal Mayo Clinic Proceedings (must credit) looked at studies detailing the mechanisms, pathophysiology, and clinical manifestations of cardiovascular injury from excessive endurance exercise.
Dr. James O’Keefe and colleagues said research suggests that extreme endurance training can cause transient structural cardiovascular changes and elevations of cardiac biomarkers, all of which return to normal within one week.
But for some individuals, over months and years of repetitive injury, this process can lead to the development of patchy scarring of certain areas of the heart, and abnormal heart rhythms.
In one study, approximately 12% of apparently healthy marathon runners showed evidence for patchy myocardial scarring, and the coronary heart disease event rate during a two-year follow up was significantly higher in marathon runners than in runners not doing marathons.
The review said it had been known that elite-level athletes commonly develop abnormal electrocardiogram readings.
However, studies now show that changes to the heart triggered by excessive exercise can lead to rhythm abnormalities.
Endurance sports such as ultramarathon running or professional cycling have been associated with as much as a five-fold increase in the prevalence of atrial fibrillation, or abnormal heart rhythms.
Chronic excessive sustained exercise may also be associated with other heart problems including artery wall stiffening.
Dr. James O’Keefe said lifelong vigorous exercisers generally have lower death and disability rates compared with non-exercisers, but it was becoming important to detect intense exercisers whose regime might put them at risk.
The phenomenon has been dubbed Phidippides cardiomyopathy – after the fatal heart damage suffered by the original marathon runner.
The young Greek messenger in 490BC died suddenly after running 175 miles in two days, with the last leg of 26.2 miles from Marathon to Athens.
His death was the first report of a sudden cardiac death of a long distance runner.
Dr. James O’Keefe stressed the review findings should not undermine the message that physical exercise was good for most people.
He said: “Physically active people are much healthier than their sedentary counterparts. Exercise is one of the most important things you need to do on a daily basis.
“But what this paper points out is that a lot of people do not understand that the lion’s share of health benefits accrue at a relatively modest level.
“Extreme exercise is not really conducive to great cardiovascular health. Beyond 30-60 minutes per day, you reach a point of diminishing returns.”
Government guidelines recommend adults take aerobic exercise five times a week for 30 minutes or more for maximum health benefits.
Children should have at least 60 minutes of moderate to vigorous exercise a day, including taking part in sports, brisk walking and running.
Aerobic exercise is achieved through sports such as jogging, running, cycling, tennis and swimming.
The level of aerobic exertion should be enough to raise the heart rate to 120 beats a minute or higher, which includes a brisk walk and swimming. But taking a stroll or even gardening is also regarded as healthy activity.
Scientists claim that tall men are 24% less at risk of heart problems, besides other advantages.
Harvard researchers have found that those who are more than 6ft are 24% less likely to suffer from heart failure than men just a few inches smaller.
Scientists looked at the records of 22,000 male doctors in their mid-fifties who were subsequently followed over a 22-year period.
They each filled in an initial questionnaire on their height, weight and general health and then every year subsequently filled in surveys about any new medical diagnoses.
The study, published in the American Journal of Cardiology, found that 1,444 men developed heart failure which was about 7% of the total.
Men who were 6 ft (1.8 meters) or over were 24% less likely to report having heart failure than those who were 5ft 8 (1.72 meters) or smaller.
This was after their age and weight, as well as whether they had high blood pressure and diabetes, had all been taken into account.
The scientists think that one reason is that shorter men may have had childhood diseases that stunted their growth. In adulthood this could have led to the build-up of plaque in their arteries and higher blood pressure.
But they also think that the biology of taller men may put them at less risk.
Men who were 6 ft (1.8 meters) or over were 24 per cent less likely to report having heart failure than those who were 5ft 8 (1.72 meters) or smaller
Scientists say that there is greater distance between certain points in tall men’s arteries and their hearts which puts the heart under less strain.
Jeffrey Teuteberg, a cardiologist at the University of Pittsburgh Medical Center who was not involved in the study said: “As much as we know about the development of very common diseases like heart failure, there’s still a lot we don’t know.
“There’s still a lot more that impacts the development of those diseases beyond those things.
“The message certainly shouldn’t be: <<If you’re tall, don’t worry about these sorts of things, or if you’re short, you’re doomed.>>”
Heart failure affects occurs when the heart are too weak to properly pump blood around the body and can be caused by heart attacks, which cause the organ to weaken.