Actor Ernie Lively's Cause Of Death Explained

Actor Ernie Lively, father of actress Blake Lively, has died at the age of 74 in Los Angeles. According to USA TODAY, his representative stated that he died from complications of cardiac arrest. After he retired from a 50 year acting career, Lively moved to Utah to spend more time outdoors in nature. But a 2003 heart attack took its toll on his health, with Lively struggling to climb up a flight of stairs without having to stop to take a break (via People).

It's not uncommon for people who have experienced cardiac episodes to then have long-term health effects. While many people believe heart attacks and cardiac arrest to be one and the same, they are actually two different health issues (via American Heart Association). When someone has a heart attack, it occurs because a blocked artery is keeping blood from being pumped to parts of the heart. That keeps the heart from receiving the oxygen it needs to stay healthy, and can lead to severe damage to the muscle. Arteries can become blocked when there's an accumulation of fat and cholesterol along the walls of the artery (via Mayo Clinic). If the buildup breaks loose and clots, blocking the flow of blood, a heart attack can occur.

Ernie Lively had a previous heart attack

While a heart attack like the one Ernie Lively experienced in 2003 can sometimes trigger cardiac arrest, they are not the same condition. Cardiac arrest occurs when the heart suddenly stops beating (via Mayo Clinic). This is often caused by a malfunction in the electrical pulses that control the heartbeat, also known as an arrhythmia. If the heart stops beating, oxygenated blood no longer flows to vital organs like the brain. People experiencing cardiac arrest typically lose consciousness quickly. If action is not taken immediately to keep blood flowing and to restart the heart, brain damage, organ failure, and even death may occur within just a few minutes. If someone does survive cardiac arrest, they may show lasting signs of brain damage.

It's possible that Ernie Lively's 2003 heart attack may have increased his risk for sudden cardiac arrest (via American Heart Association). There are also several other conditions that can trigger cardiac arrest such as cardiomyopathy, or a thickening of the heart muscle, ventricular fibrillation, and heart failure. Common side effects of cardiac arrest include brain damage and coma if resuscitation does not start quickly (via Healthline). 

The prolific actor's legacy will undoubtedly continue to resonate with fans and audiences through his impactful body of work.