The official cause of death for Whitney Houston has been announced ... sort of. According to initial autopsy reports, the singer drowned -- with cocaine use and atherosclerotic heart disease listed as "contributing factors." Okay, cocaine use. Um, knock me over with a feather.
But when drug addiction kills, it's usually a sudden, unexpected death, right? What exactly is atherosclerotic heart disease and how did it cause Houston to drown in a bathtub?
Only one of those questions can be answered definitively at this point.
When someone has atherosclerotic heart disease, the arteries going to the heart and other organs are hardened because of plaque build-up. This can lead to stroke or heart attack.
So what does that mean? And how did Houston get the disease?
"It means she could have passed out and drowned," said Los Angeles County Assistant Chief Coroner Ed Winter, whose team performed Houston's autopsy.
"Also, continued use of drugs resulted in heart disease, and that could have led to a heart attack."
But the truth is, Winter and his team still aren't sure exactly how one thing led to another. Not yet.
"At this time," he adds, "I don't know how bad her heart was. That will be in the final report. We know she drowned, she had heart disease, and the cocaine was considered a contributing cause to her death."
Apparently the symptoms of atherosclerosis can go unnoticed, so who knows how long Houston was walking around with a ticking time bomb in her chest? It's usually a doctor performing a regular physical exam who first picks up on the signs (the disease can then be confirmed by a series of test including electrocardiagrams and ultrasounds).
As for the traces of other drugs in her system -- marijuana, Xanax, a muscle relaxer, and Benadryl, the coroner says there wasn't enough of any of them to have played a part in her death. But the fact that they were there does tell us that Whitney was in the habit of inundating her fragile system with substances. Substances her ailing heart probably couldn't handle.
Maybe it finally just gave out on her.
Have you ever heard of atherosclerotic heart disease?
Image via eonline