Could Randy Travis be suffering from hereditary hemochromatosis?

by Stephen Cobb on July 28, 2013

Post image for Could Randy Travis be suffering from hereditary hemochromatosis?

PLEASE NOTE: This article does not say Randy Travis has hemochromatosis.

As you may know, Randy Travis is a successful American country music singer, songwriter and actor (if you didn’t know, check out the Randy Travis page on Wikipedia).

You may also know that Mr. Travis has had some serious health problems of late, notably a stroke and brain surgery after being admitted to hospital in Texas with presumptive cardiomyopathy and congestive heart failure. Naturally, I was saddened to hear of Mr. Travis’ health problems, particularly since they are pretty severe for someone who is relatively young (when you get to 6o, as I did recently, then 50-something is relatively young). However, what made me sit up and pay close attention was three pieces of information:

  1. An article I had recently read, about cardiomyopathy and hemochromatosis.
  2. Mention of a family history of heart problems by one of the doctors treating Mr. Travis.
  3. The Wikipedia reference to the fact that Mr. Travis is of Cornish ancestry.

Taken together, these three items add up to reasonable grounds for considering hereditary hemochromatosis, which causes excess iron to be deposited in various organs, to be a potential factor in the poor health of Mr. Travis.

PLEASE NOTE: I am not saying Randy Travis has hemochromatosis.

I have a great deal of respect for the privacy of others, even celebrities. I would not speculate about the health of Mr. Travis if I thought it was an invasion of his privacy, but failure to raise the possibility of hereditary hemochromatosis playing a role in his health problems in the light of those three items strikes me as a bigger sin than speculation could ever be.

Let me address item 3 first. Wikipedia states that Mr. Travis is a descendant of an immigrant from the county of Cornwall in England by the name of Robarde Traweek, “whose son Robert was born in 1700 in Stafford County, Virginia and died in 1788 in Onslow County, North Carolina, establishing the North Carolinian roots of the Traywick family.”

As regular readers of this blog will know, hereditary hemochromatosis is particularly prevalent in people of Celtic ancestry (hence the phrase Celtic Curse). I think I am correct is saying that in Ireland, 1 in 10 people are thought to carry at least one HFE mutation, and 1 in 83 are homozygous, which means they have two copies of the mutation, compared to 1 in 200 in the general population of Europe and around 1 in 250 among North Americans.

What some readers may not realize is that Cornwall is considered one of the six Celtic nations: Ireland, Scotland, Isle of Man, Wales, Cornwall and Brittany. In other words, people from Cornwall may have a higher than average incidence of genetic hemochromatosis (to be honest, I could not find any studies which specifically studied HFE in people of Cornish descent, but I think there is sufficient basis for supposition).

Now for item 1, the medical literature which discusses connections between cardiomyopathy and hereditary hemochromatosis. Fortunately there is a very detailed article available online: Iron Overload Cardiomyopathy: Better Understanding of an Increasing Disorder, published in the September, 2010 issue of the journal of the American College of Cardiology. Here’s part of the abstract:

The prevalence of iron overload cardiomyopathy (IOC) is increasing. The spectrum of symptoms of IOC is varied. Early in the disease process, patients may be asymptomatic, whereas severely overloaded patients can have terminal heart failure complaints that are refractory [resistant] to treatment. It has been shown that early recognition and intervention may alter outcomes.

Not all cases of iron overload cardiomyopathy are due to hereditary hemochromatosis, but when dealing with cardiomyopathy it makes sense to bear in mind the presence of other risks factors for HH, like Celtic ancestry, family history, and as well as elevated iron and ferritin levels.

And now to item 2, which comes from statements reported in the press, to the effect that images of Mr. Travis’ heart do not display “the appearance of either drugs or alcohol causing the heart condition.” This is in the same article that reports “Mr. Travis does have a family history of cardiomyopathy, and it is more likely related to that.”

So, why write about all this?

1. Awareness and education: The popularity enjoyed by Mr. Travis means that a lot of people are following his recovering very closely, particularly if they or a loved one has similar health problems. That strikes me as an opportunity to raise awareness of hemochromatosis as a possible factor in such cases. I know plenty of people who, in hindsight, wish they had heard of hemochromatosis when a loved one was suffering with severe heart problems.

2. Illumination: As we have noted before on Celtic Curse, hemochromatosis can cause heart and liver problems that might appear to come from drinking. For example, HH can cause liver problems that doctors ignorant of HH ascribe to drinking. I know of cases in which doctors have told relatives that a patient is a secret drinker when he is not, and the problem is actually undiagnosed HH. Of course, Mr. Travis has had well-documented problems with alcohol, and excessive alcohol consumption is never good, particularly if you have HH and are experiencing iron overloading. However, drinking my not be the cause of Mr. Travis’ health problems.

3. Finding the good in the bad: We wish Mr. Travis a speedy recovery, and if it should turn out that he does have hereditary hemochromatosis, we hope he uses his fame to educate more people about this under-diagnosed condition. Remember, “early recognition and intervention may alter outcomes.”



{ 3 comments… read them below or add one }

boru July 29, 2013 at 1:17 am

Haemochromatosis is a hereditary illness, that affects Celtic people across the world.

Approximately 60 generations ago a noble man was born in Ireland who had a incredibly large family.
Now something like one in every 14 Irish people are exposed to haemochromatosis, and approximately one in every 300 Americans could be diagnosed with the hereditary disease

I believe that every young male who has a northern European heritage, especially a Irish or Welsh heritage should have themselves tested for the gene.

A word of caution, if you suspect that you are I have got haemochromatosis, normally with most men it is when you become diabetic, please go and get your life insurance fixed up, because once you have being diagnosed as a haemochromatosis sufferer you will be refused life insurance.

Everybody must understand that this is a widespread but under diagnosed white man’s disease, most non-European doctors would never have heard of it and is not on their medical radar

By the time you hit around 40 years of age you have done too much damage to your internal organs and destroyed your pancreas.
There is no medical test to see if your pancreas is working

It only results in the diabetic condition

Prevention is the key, and it’s a good thing that teenagers and men in their 20s should regularly go to the Red Cross to give blood at least four times a year, this will prevent your haemochromatosis from damaging your organs

Later on after your fixed up your life insurance, you can get yourself tested for the corrupted gene, and satisfy yourself that you either have it or not.

I know quite a few Irish guys, that suddenly in their late 20s started to get high blood pressure, their hair started to fall out, their skin started the go a yellow bronze colour, finally ending up with diabetes 2.
They were mystified as to what was going on, how they could fall off the health bench so quickly and so disastrously.
It also affects your sperm count, and your libido

Under diagnosed and untreated by vivisection, e.g. bloodletting, donating blood to the Red Cross, it will shorten your life by at least 20 years,
and as it takes control of you you will have a miserable and sorrowful retirement into your late 50s and middle 60s, you will not be expected to live to your 70s
one further thing about diabetes it accelerates the ageing process and makes a 40-year-old man looked like a 60-year-old man

My own view is that because this is a white man’s disease, it is neglected by the medical establishment, and receives no government funding, or even publicity
not even the local diabetes Council or diabetic lobby groups give more than a passing glance at haemochromatosis
so my friends we are left to row our own boat, and I can call you my brothers and sisters because everybody with haemochromatosis is related to everybody else.
We are part of a unique family.
What can we do about it?
We must lobby our own governments and our own health boards, diabetic councils etc etc to publicise the issues surrounding haemochromatosis, and to encourage white young men to get themselves tested before they turn 30 years of age.
By the way I only concentrate on the men caused normally the women don’t suffer the negative effects of haemochromatosis as they pass blood every month. So the haemochromatosis doesn’t start to adversely affect them until they getting into their 70s and 80s for the women
with the men you’re shot with haemochromatosis when you turn 40.
Major damage to your organs is already discoverable when you hit 40

A comparison disease is one suffered by the Jewish Polish community, this hereditary disease that the Jews suffer from is funded with millions of dollars from the taxpayer, and they have many different layers of support networks to assist them. And good on them
if the Irish Celtic’s communities that do not lobby for tax payer funded support, we do not help ourselves, therefore we receive no help
our sons and their sons going off into the future generations. Will be at the mercy of this Celtic curse, and nobody lifts their finger to help.
Good night and good luck


Bonnie Ikamas July 29, 2013 at 1:04 pm

Thank you for this information. I will be sharing it.


Carolyn Martin November 27, 2014 at 3:47 pm

Stephen, I have Hemachromatosis and I too don’t understand why the doctors don’t see this as important. I believe that this is the cause of 90% of are heart disease and cancer, My father and sister both died of cancer which was in our linage after being diagnosed. Do you have the hands It could be seen early in my hands and my sister’s hands. My father wasn’t diagnosed until after he was deceased. (Long story ) because of my hands it’s hard to write much on the computer. It’s called thew iron salute the first 2 fingers on each hand are have large joints! Anyway keep banging the drum! We are with you!


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