A Timeline Of Barbara Walters' Health Issues Over The Years

After a successful decades-long career as a broadcast journalist, Barbara Walters chose to retire in 2014 when she was in her mid-80s, according to The New York Times. Since then, the former anchor's public appearances were becoming more and more scarce, leading many to believe that her retirement was in part due to ongoing health issues she was experiencing, The U.S. Sun reported.

Within a couple of years of her no longer working regularly, Walters has remained mostly out of the spotlight, beginning in about 2016, up until the time of her death on December 30, 2022, as TMZ reported. She passed away at her home in New York City at age 93. With details of her well-being prior to her death in the open, here is a timeline of Walters' most significant health issues over the years. 

Walters had heart surgery

In 2010, Barbara Walters announced on "The View" that she would be having heart surgery — an aortic valve replacement to be exact (per The U.S. Sun). She had a faulty valve that could result in death if it wasn't fixed. Luckily, the issue was detected during a procedure called an echocardiogram. This scan showed how the journalist's valves were shrinking and retracting. 

Aortic valve replacements are fairly common, with over 15,000 performed just a few years before Walters' surgery in 2007 (via WebMD). The medical site explains that Walters' doctor likely ordered an echo because they heard a murmur. An echo will provide further information as to why that might be happening, and will find any faults that need to be addressed. One of the doctors speaking to WebMD explained that this surgery is typically minimally invasive, therefore, the former "The View" anchor was able to return to work within just a few months.

She was hospitalized after falling in Washington D.C.

When Barbara Walters was in Washington D.C. reporting on President Barack Obama's second inauguration in 2013, she tripped down the stairs which resulted in a cut on her forehead, according to CBS News. It wasn't an incredibly serious incident, however, she wanted to be extra cautious — she was 83 at the time after all — and decided it would be best to take a visit to the hospital.

During her hospitalization, Walters got a full exam and stayed for some extra observation just to make sure that everything looked alright. The anchor was hospitalized for long, and luckily, as ABC News spokesman Jeffrey Schneider said, Walters was "telling everyone what to do, which we all take as a very positive sign." 

Shortly after she recovered from her fall, Walters came down with a fever that was quickly linked to another surprising health concern for the journalist. 

The journalist had a rare form of chickenpox

This particular health issue came as a surprise to many, including Barbara Walters herself. Adult chickenpox. Upon recovering from her fall, Walters came down with a fever that doctors later linked to an uncommon case of adult chickenpox (via USA Today). The outlet mentioned that most people will contract chickenpox prior to their teen years, the illness is most commonly associated with fever, rash, and fatigue, and shingles can come after chickenpox as a "reactivation of the virus." So, you can imagine why this was an unexpected diagnosis for Walters who had never had chickenpox before. 

Chickenpox in adults — especially older adults — can also result in more serious complications such as brain infections. Upon her diagnosis, Walters returned to the hospital for treatment and was told by her "View" co-anchors, "no scratching," dreaded words for anyone who knows what chickenpox feel like. 

Walters was reportedly diagnosed with dementia

In more recent years, it had been widely reported that Barbara Walters was diagnosed with dementia, not to be confused with Alzheimer's (per The U.S. Sun).  Dementia is "a general term for loss of memory, language, problem-solving and other thinking abilities that are severe enough to interfere with daily life," according to the Alzheimer's Association. While no one ever fully corroborated these reports, The Sun notes that past guests on "The View" shared stories of her deteriorating brain over the years. Walters supposedly forgot Ross Matthews and Jenny McCarthy, who had both been asked by the anchor to come on the show no more than a couple of months prior. 

Radar.com reported that Walters was "wheelchair-bound and suffering from advanced dementia," with sources saying she was a "recluse" in her final days. Walters was often exhausted and spent much of the day in bed. "Barbara is fading a little more every day. She's close to the end and her team is scrambling to manage affairs just the way Barbara would want them," the source explained. "Sadly, her dementia has been getting worse. [Her] caretaker give her the opportunity to make everyday decisions, but more often than not she'll stare at them blankly."

But Walters was passionate about reporting up until the end — "When the news comes on, Barbra gets extremely agitated because she's convinced, she's supposed to be there reporting the stories!" a close confidant noted.