Kevin Samuels, the infamous dating guru known for his hot takes on relationships advice, unexpectedly died this past May. According to reports, Samuels went back to his place with a woman he met while out earlier in the evening. Reports say he started to complain of chest pain and shortness of breath before eventually falling onto the woman who happened to be a nurse. Additionally, reports say that after she detected an irregular and potentially lethal heart rhythm, she attempted to get an AED (automated external defibrillator) but was unsuccessful, therefore performing CPR while waiting for emergency responders. Samuels was then transported to the hospital, where he was pronounced dead on arrival.
There is a lot of controversy surrounding the cause of Kevin Samuels’ death. And while it’s none of our business, many are awaiting the release of finalized autopsy and toxicology reports. Until then, we don’t know the full picture. However, The Fulton County Medical Examiner’s Office did release a statement citing Samuel’s cause of death, stating he died of hypertension.
Hypertension is a medical condition commonly known as high blood pressure. With this condition the long-term force of the blood against your artery walls is high enough that it may eventually cause health problems, such as heart disease and including death — which is why it’s also referred to as a silent killer. As a Nurse Practitioner and because we know that long-term and/or poorly managed hypertension can lead to other serious medical problems, in my opinion, it’s not completely accurate to say hypertension itself was the sole cause of his death, but more so a contributing factor. According to the CDC, nearly half of adults in the United States (47% or 116 million) have hypertension. Many people can manage their high blood pressure with diet, exercise, other lifestyle modifications and medication.
In my professional opinion, saying that Kevin Samuels died due to hypertension is misleading. While there should be respect for Samuels’ privacy, The Fulton County Medical Examiner’s Office did a public disservice by not explaining how hypertension can lead to death. Not releasing the full report or providing an explanation ignores the true dangers of hypertension by allowing the world to speculate. Nearly half of the American population is dealing with hypertension and not everyone experiences sudden cardiac death like Samuels. However, the public should be aware that hypertension does increase one’s risk of death, and they should know why.
What we do know is that Samuels was a 57-year-old Black man who was not overweight and appeared to be relatively in good health. He was reportedly on the blood pressure medication Atenolol. We are unsure if there were other stressors or risk factors involved that may have exacerbated the condition. The Medical Examiner’s Office also mentioned Samuels had thickening of the heart wall, a condition also known as hypertrophic cardiomyopathy, which very likely was a contributing factor in his death. In hypertrophic cardiomyopathy, the heart wall thickens and becomes stiff, and this can reduce the amount of blood that the heart pumps with each beat. This condition can also cause decreased cardiac output, heart valve disease, heart failure, chest pain, shortness of breath and other unwanted complications such as sudden cardiac arrest.
Think of it this way: when you exercise, as you lift weights, your muscles get bigger and more muscular. The same thing happens with our heart as it is forced to work harder due to high blood pressure. While this is great for our arms and our biceps, we do not want our hearts to become muscular. When our heart becomes muscular it changes shape, which alters its function. When the heart stiffens, it can obstruct blood flow, and cause irregular and lethal heart dysrhythmias. Once your heart begins to become muscular and change shape, you cannot reverse that. And based on the information available that Samuels had hypertension and a thickened heart wall, I’m led to believe that he likely suffered from sudden cardiac arrest, which is a lethal and irregular heart rhythm, when left untreated, can quickly result in death — which is what the woman who was with him suspected the evening he fell ill.
While I was never a healthcare provider to Samuels, this is a clinical picture that I’ve unfortunately seen too often, especially in those with poorly managed blood pressure. This is why high blood pressure prevention and management is so important. People of color, especially Black males, are more susceptible to hypertension and are more likely to suffer worse outcomes. And while lifestyle modifications can alter our health trajectory, health inequities, systemic racism and so many other barriers exist that put our community at risk.
With hypertension, you may feel OK, but the damage is being done on a cellular level. If you are not able to prevent hypertension, whether due to genetic or predisposed circumstances, it is incredibly important to manage the condition. Some ways you can help manage your blood pressure are through exercise, diet modifications and removing stressors such as smoking, stress and alcohol.
Whether you loved him or hated him, Kevin Samuels is still providing a valuable learning opportunity in his passing. He was always able to garner our attention with his messages, trying to teach and educate his audience; he is still doing that with this final lesson.