Ask. Dr. Nandi: What does Aretha Franklin being 'gravely ill' mean medically?

(WXYZ) - The legendary singer and songwriter Aretha Franklin is gravely ill. But she’s reportedly alert and speaking.  

She’s surrounded by loved ones, and her family is asking for prayers during this sensitive and emotional time.

This is certainly disheartening news to hear, and my thoughts and prayers are with the amazing singing legend.

Now the term gravely ill typically means that you have an illness and the prognosis does not look good. You would, unfortunately, be facing a high risk of death.  

Now that certainly doesn’t guarantee death, but the situation is very serious and worrying.  

Just like many Americans, we often face health conditions especially as we age.

Now the Queen of Soul has canceled past performances for medical procedures we know nothing about. And in March her doctor reportedly said she should not tour and instead rest for two months.  

But we do know that she has battled alcoholism in her past, she’s also a former chain smoker and has struggled with her weight throughout her lifetime. Those are three things can really impact your health in negative ways.  

Too much alcohol can affect your heart, liver, immune system and pancreas. I’ve also said plenty of times how smoking and obesity are linked to numerous health issues like heart disease along with certain cancers.

Now we’ve heard reports that she’s been battling cancer and has lost quite a bit of weight. But whatever illness the songstress is dealing with is certainly being kept very private.

There are types of cancers that appear to run in families which could be caused by an abnormal gene. Aretha’s older sister died from throat cancer; her other sister passed from breast cancer, and her brother died from lung cancer.  

These are all very different cancers. But, often when cancer is present in a family, it can be because family members share similar behaviors that increase their risk like smoking.  

Also, cancer is a very common disease, so many people tend to have a couple family members that have had cancer in their lifetime.  

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