David Letterman health: Heart surgery took ‘edge off’ chat show host’s hypochondria

David Letterman puts Jennifer Aniston’s hair in his mouth in 1998

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Over a decade after having a complicated quintuple bypass procedure, Letterman was asked by Oprah Winfrey in 2013 whether his surgery was “humbling”. He said: “I was a hypochondriac… you go through heart surgery, that takes the edge off your hypochondria – now you really got something.”

In bypass surgery, surgeons redirect blood around any blocked sections of the blood vessels in your heart called arteries.

Over time, the arteries can become narrowed by the buildup of fatty deposits called plaques which block the constant supply of blood the heart needs.

Just two weeks after the turn of the millennium, Letterman went to his doctors for a regular checkup to monitor his heart–which had some minor problems in the past.

The check-up turned out to be anything but regular.

Letterman was rushed to New York City where he underwent emergency bypass surgery.

During the procedure, surgeons take a healthy blood vessel from elsewhere in the patient’s body and connect it above and below the blocked parts of your heart to create a new pathway.

Shortly after his surgery, Letterman returned to host the Late Show with David Letterman.

In his returning show, the host invited eight of the medical team that treated him on stage.

“It was five weeks ago today that these men and women saved my life,” he said while they joined him in the limelight.

“You tell yourself, ‘I’ll never going to be able to get through this.’ But you do get through it, and the reason you get through it is because these people get you through it.”

Throughout the show, he was quick to interlude his sombre messages with classic Letterman humour.

To one of his guests, he said: “First time I’ve done the show without regular coffee.

“Decaffeinated – I don’t care, sue me – it stinks.”

In the Oprah interview, he again emphasised his respect for the surgeons.

“What I learned was, these people who do this [surgery] are so good, so talented, you have no choice but to trust them,” he said.

“They literally have your heart in their hands. I was so scared, then I realised when it was all done that I had nothing to be afraid of at all. These people are unbelievable,” he added.

People who have a buildup of fatty deposits in their coronary arteries are said to have coronary heart disease.

The chance of developing coronary heart disease is said to increase with age, according to the NHS.

There are also other risk factors, including smoking, being overweight or obese, and having a high-fat diet.

Most people who have a bypass recover within 12 weeks, suggested the NHS.

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