February happens to be Heart month in a number of countries, Canada, United States and UK all have devoted this month to raising awareness for heart health.
I think this is an important topic for singers. After all your body is your instrument and if all parts of it are healthy it will serve you better.
A couple of years ago I was interviewed about singers’ health and one of the topics that came up for discussion was why did some of the great singers of history like Enrico Caruso lead less than healthy lifestyles – the so called “good life” of rich foods, smoking and alcohol – yet they had these amazing voices?
The truth is a healthy lifestyle will not necessarily make you have a great voice. This comes from genetics, dedication to honing an impeccable technique, and the ability to communicate to and touch an audience.
What a healthy heart will give you is the optimization of your instrument, your body, to be able to have the energy, stamina and health to deal with the demands of a singer’s life.
It will pump blood full of nutrients to you larynx for optimal functioning and recovery. And pump blood to your brain for an alert mind. It will keep you healthy so you won't miss a gig. It will get through hours of rehearsals in the evening after being at your day job 9 to 5. It will give you the endurance to be weeks on the road performing. It will let you sing well into your twilight years.
And here’s the thing, many of the GREAT singers did not make it to their twilight years. They died young. If we understand how lifestyle choices can affect our heart health we can prevent that fate and look forward to a long life of singing.
Heart disease is the number one killer in the world with 17.9 million deaths a year. Risk factors include:
Aside from Enrico Caruso, whose death at 48 years of age is mostly attributed to his smoking, drinking and poor eating habits, there are many other great singers of the 20th and 21st century who died of heart disease. Sadly most of them died while still in the prime of their careers. Though it is impossible to conclusively say whether their deaths can be attributed to lifestyle without knowing more of their personal lives and health habits, given the above statistics it is quite possible that these deaths could have been prevented through lifestyle changes.
Of course this is not limited to classical singers. Many contemporary artists have suffered early deaths due to lifestyle as well.
One demographic that seems to have a very high proportion of young deaths is hip hop and rap artists. Some dying of heart disease in their 20s!
This is largely due to the unhealthy relationship that they develop at a young age growing up in food deserts (impoverished areas where there is limited access to affordable and nutritious food, especially fruits and vegetables). This was highlighted in the film Think Rich – Health is the New Wealth. It is heartening to see that many of these artists are now leading the charge to bring awareness to the benefits of a healthy, holistic lifestyle.
In the past year with COVID-19 it has become apparent that those with underlying cardiovascular conditions are at greater risk of dying or having severe complications from the virus. And the complications from that for singers can be devastating.
What you can do
You are a singer. You have a passion to share your gift. You have choices to make.
Some of the risk factors such as age and family history we have no control over. However, most of the risk factors are within your control. A healthy lifestyle can go a long way to reducing most of the risk factors. Things you can do are:
Heart and stroke disease is preventable and some evidence even suggests that with proper nutrition and lifestyle it is reversible.
It’s never too early to start on your heart health either. Arterial plaque build up can start in children as young as 10 years old and by the teens there may be plaque build up that will hang around through your life and potentially only get worse if lifestyle changes are not made.
If you want to be a resilient singer that will be able to sing for many more years to come, then you can book your free Singer’s Wellness Strategy Session with me. You can book it here.
May you share your gift of song with the world for many, many more years to come!
Disclaimer: The Fit Singer does not give medical advice nor claim to cure any medical conditions. If you do have a medical condition, any dietary, exercise or other lifestyle changes should be made under the supervision of your family doctor.
Hi, I'm Elizabeth! I'm your guide on your vocal journey. I work with singers - Voice Students of all ages, Singing Teachers and Choristers - basically anyone who LOVES to Sing and wants to free their voice.