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Unhealthy Diet & Bad Habits: The Real Reason Behind Rick James’s Sudden Death

Aug. 2 2019, Updated 5:01 p.m. ET

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On August 6, 2004, the music world was forced to mourn the death of beloved funk star Rick James. The musician was 56 years old when he was found dead in his Los Angeles home.

Now, REELZ’s new docuseries Autopsy: Rick James is looking into the star’s mysterious death, blaming his unhealthy diet for his tragic health decline.

“Rick had an unhealthy diet, and this, along with his weight, put him at risk of developing atherosclerosis, a build-up of plaque in the arteries. It is the single biggest cause of death in the developed world. Remarkably, there was only five percent narrowing of one of his coronary arteries,” says Dr. Michael Hunter in the clip.

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Rick James Attending the Urban Contemorary Music Awards at the Savoy Hotel in New York City Januery 21 1983
Source: Walter McBride/Shutterstock

The reports reveal that he was diagnosed with type 2 diabetes a few years before his death.

“The only reason he ever was thin was when he was physically performing. He didn’t come across as somebody who cared about himself physically,” recalls James’s friend, Avarie Shevin. “I don’t think Rick took his health very seriously, to be honest with you.”

The autopsy, according to Dr. Michael Hunter, states that James was getting treatment for his diabetes, which indicates that his blood sugar was under control at the time of his death.

“However,” Hunter says, “I cannot rule out diabetes as the contributing factor to his death. Looking deeper into his autopsy, I believe Rick James also suffered from another potentially deadly condition. Could this provide an explanation for his sudden death?”

Autopsy: Rick James airs Sunday, August 4 at 10 ET/ PT on REELZ.

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