Reggie White died of complications related to sleep apnea

by Americare Respiratory Services

Sleep apnea was one of the factors in the unfortunate passing of Reggie White, one of football’s legends, at the young age of 43. 

White was diagnosed with obstructive sleep apnea (OSA) as well as an inflammatory condition called sarcoidosis that affected his heart and lungs.  He lived with these conditions for many years.  On Dec 26, 2004, White died in his sleep.  The official cause of death was “cardiac arrhythmia,” which means he had an irregular heartbeat.  Sometimes arrhythmia can cause a racing heartbeat, making it difficult to breathe.  Sleep apnea is a condition that can cause you to stop breathing in your sleep, causing the heart to slow down. 

It is not uncommon for cardiovascular disease and sleep disorders to go hand-in-hand.  Fortunately, there are treatments available that can minimize the risk of serious outcomes like what happened to Reggie White back in 2004.  Getting the proper treatment for sleep apnea, which may include medication and a CPAP or BiPAP machine, can be life-saving therapy for someone who is at risk for cardiovascular disease. 

In 2011, Reggie White’s wife talked about his snoring and the risk of sleep apnea.  She urged men, women, and children to get screened and treated if they are concerned about having sleep apnea. 

“People may have sleep apnea and not be aware of it.  People with sleep apnea may stop breathing numerous times during the night and not fully awaken to realize it.  In many cases, a household member is the first to notice that a person snores loudly, stops breathing for periods of time, and gasps or snorts during sleep.  Daytime drowsiness, headache upon awakening, weight gain, depression, irritability, leg swelling, sexual dysfunction, and difficulty thinking or remembering may be signs of sleep apnea.  Sleep apnea can contribute to high blood pressure, and researchers suspect that up to half of all people with sleep apnea have high blood pressure.  Sleep apnea can contribute to stroke, heart attack, or death. “

For more information, check out our patient education library.

Reggie White played defense for the Philadelphia Eagles, Green Bay Packers, and Tennessee Volunteers during his football career.  His No. 92 jersey has been retired by all three teams in his honor.  He was also an evangelical minister. 

If you or a loved one has symptoms of sleep apnea, talk to your doctor right away.