Joan Crawford: What happened to the Hollywood icon prior to her death – end of an era

What's the difference between a heart attack and cardiac arrest?

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Characterised as a neurotic and abusive parent by her adopted daughter, Christina, Joan Crawford might be turning in her grave as the Mommie Dearest trope lives on. Yet, in the lead up to her death, Joan was accustomed to living a chaotic lifestyle. Beginning in childhood, Joan – born as Lucille LeSueur – witnessed her parents divorce; she was then sexually abused by her stepfather.

Launching her career as a chorus dancer, Joan went on to perform on Broadway, then Hollywood.

Major films include What Ever Happened to Baby Jane, The Damned Don’t Cry, and Torch Song.

Rumours circulated that Joan was in competition with fellow Hollywood star Bette Davis.

Not only for leading roles, but for the attention of noteworthy men in the industry, beginning with actor Franchot Tone.

Joan did end up marrying Franchot Tone, for a number of years, but he was one of her four husbands to be.

Preceding Tone was Douglas Fairbanks, and afterwards Joan married Phillip Terry, and then Alfred Steele.

Alfred she lost, not to divorce, but to death, as the CEO for the Pepsi-Cola Company died from a heart attack.

The tragedy forebode what Joan was to expect, nearly 20 years later, when she too took her last breath as her heart died.

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Pronounced dead at the age of 69 following a heart attack in the bedroom of her Upper East Side New York apartment, her lawyer, Edward Cowan said: “It’s the end of an era and a legend.”

Joan had no history of heart issues, but there can be early warning signs of an impending attack that can easily be overlooked.

Shining a light on what to pay attention to is cardiologist Doctor Zi-Jian Xu.

“The reality is people can notice subtle heart attack symptoms months before an actual event occurs,” he said.

“The majority of patients experience somewhat typical symptoms,” he continued.

Examples include radiating chest pain, heaviness or discomfort, heart palpitations, cold sweats, and shortness of breath, the doc said.

“Atypical” sensations can include fatigue, a general sense of unease, vague discomfort, back or abdominal pain and declining stamina.

“Both types of symptoms can be experienced months before an actual heart attack occurs,” Doctor Xu emphasised.

The doctor advises people to be aware of their risk of heart disease, which means knowing their family history, checking their blood pressure and cholesterol levels.

In the UK, the free NHS Health Check (from the age of 40) can detail all of these factors.

A check-up is offered every five years, but you can also pay at some pharmacies to have your health checked over when you want.

On Thursday, July 28 at 9pm on BBC Four, Joan Crawford stars in Whatever Happened to Baby Jane?

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