Shameless doc’s PR pitch: Gandolfini’s death ‘a wake-up call to guys who snore like freight trains’

Dylan Stableford

It's been less than 24 hours since James Gandolfini, the 51-year-old award-winning actor, died while vacationing with his 13-year-old son in Rome, Italy.

But that, apparently, was more than enough time for Michael Gelb, clinical professor at New York University’s College of Dentistry, to seize the opportunity to promote his "pioneering" integrative sleep apnea treatment center.

"Might the iconic 'Sopranos' actor's legendary loud snore been a warning sign?" an email pitch from Gelb's publicist, sent on Thursday morning, read. An excerpt:

Enter Dr. Michael Gelb, clinical professor at New York University’s College of Dentistry and founder of The Gelb Center, a pioneer in integrative sleep apnea treatments: “James Gandolfini’s snoring was well-known. What’s less well known is that snoring is a warning sign of obstructive sleep apnea, which is linked to higher risks of heart attacks and strokes for people with cardiovascular disease. More than 38,000 people a year die from this disease, usually from a secondary heart attack. This is a wake-up call to guys who snore like freight trains.”

Dr. Gelb is available immediately for interviews via phone or email if you’re interested—just let me know! He can also write bylined articles should that be of more interest to you.

Gandolfini, a native of New Jersey, was found in his hotel room in central Rome on Wednesday. He was rushed to a hospital where emergency room doctors tried unsuccessfully to revive him, according to Reuters. An autopsy is scheduled for Friday.

Of course, Gelb was not the only doctor to speculate on the cause of Gandolfini's death.

“When you’re on vacation, you don’t eat the same way that you do when you’re at home. People tend to indulge, and that can lead directly to a heart attack,” Chauncey Crandall, chief of the cardiac transplant program at the Palm Beach Cardiovascular Clinic, told “You eat excessively, indulging in high fatty foods, and this causes the blood to thicken. The result is a blood clot, which can rupture, resulting in the blockage of blood flow to the heart, causing heart attack and sudden death."

[Related slideshow: A James Gandolfini retrospective]

"He was a walking time bomb,” Crandall continued. “The bottom line was that he was an overweight, probably inactive, and he had multiple risk factors.

“When you’re in the entertainment industry, you are at high risk of death from cardiac causes or from drugs,” he added. “Unfortunately, this was a sad case that had clear warning signs.”

The cause of Gandolfini's death will not be official until after the autopsy, Claudio Modini, ER chief at Rome's Umberto I hospital where the actor was taken, told CNN on Thursday. But it was likely a heart attack, he said.

Appearing on CNN on Wednesday night, Dr. Sanjay Gupta, the network's senior medical correspondent, was careful not to speculate on the cause of Gandolfini's death. But Gupta told host John King that 51 is "young for a first-time heart attack":

Clearly, this is young to have a heart attack, even when you look at, you know, any preexisting health conditions. Average age of someone having a first heart attack, if this is in fact what we're talking about, is usually in the mid-60s. But, John, as you are suggesting, I think it's very important here, there's very limited information that we know.

And so the ... medical personnel, people who are trying to figure this out on the ground there are going to want to know are there any other potential risk factors here? If this was, in fact, heart disease, heart attacks typically cause something known as a cardiac arrest. The heart attack itself is usually caused because you're not getting enough blood flow to the heart, but what can cause death is when the heart as a result of that starts to go into abnormal rhythms. But there are other things that can cause abnormal rhythms as well. Did he have some sort of preexisting condition that he didn't know about?

Were there medications or drugs in his system at the time of this? You're also hearing this notion was there a stroke involved. Could that have been because of poor blood flow to the brain at the same time as this problem with the heart?

Larry King, though, didn't think 51 was that young.

"I had my heart attack when I was 53," said King, the former CNN talk-show legend. "Heart attacks can occur in your 50s, and [Gandolfini] did, Sanjay, he did—he loved his food and he was not he—didn't push back from the table."