Kareem Abdul-Jabbar Gets Candid About Atrial Fibrillation Diagnosis

Kareem Abdul-Jabbar
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The NBA legend is getting real about his health condition to encourage people to care for their heart.

Kareem Abdul-Jabbar is getting real about his recently diagnosed heart condition, and encouraging others to pay more attention to their own health.

Speaking with People recently about his atrial fibrillation diagnosis, the NBA legend explained that he first felt symptoms, and noticed signs that something was wrong, several years ago, but dismissed them.

"I was having an irregular heartbeat, shortness of breath and had no energy or stamina," Abdul-Jabbar remembered. "I couldn't walk more than 30 yards without having to sit down and rest to catch my breath."

He figured that, since he had been an athlete for most of his life and stayed fit and healthy, he couldn't be at serious risk. However, that all changed last year when he was at a Los Angeles Dodgers game and felt suddenly ill, before collapsing on his way to his car.

After being rushed to the hospital, Abdul-Jabbar discovered that he suffers from atrial fibrillation -- a type of irregular heartbeat that can cause strokes, potentially fatal blood clots, heart failure and other debilitating possible symptoms.

"The shortness of breath and irregular heartbeat are things that come and go but in the long-term, this is considered life-threatening and people need to know about it," Abdul-Jabbar explained. "It's absolutely necessary for people to get checked by a doctor, and I hope that my coming out and talking about this will help people understand what they need to do to protect their health."

In an effort to do just that, the icon has teamed up with Bristol Myers Squibb and Pfizer for their "No Time To Wait" awareness campaign, which seeks to inform people of atrial fibrillation and its possible symptoms, and encourage those who are concerned to consult a doctor immediately.

"It affects people from all walks of life," Abdul-Jabbar told the outlet. "It's not something you can just dismiss."

Back in December 2020, Abdul-Jabbar got candid about some past health struggles he's faced, and the struggle faced by Black Americans due to racial inequality in the nation's health care system.

He penned an op-ed for WebMD and reflected on how, over the course of his life, he's had "prostate cancer, leukemia, and heart bypass surgery," and explained that given his age -- 73 -- and his towering 7-foot-2-inch height, he's already more at risk than most.