Toni Braxton survived ‘traumatic’ heart procedure following lupus complication

Toni Braxton's recent health scare and heart procedure prove why we all need to stay on top of regular doctor visits. 

Toni Braxton learned the hard way why one should avoid putting off doctor visits. 

The singer recently revealed in an interview with PEOPLE magazine that in September, she underwent a heart procedure after 80% of her heart’s main artery became blocked. The blockage, a complication stemming from her systemic lupus erythematosus, could have killed her if she hadn’t caught it when she did. 

Despite ordinarily staying on top of her regular tests for her lupus, an autoimmune disease that occurs when the body’s immune system attacks its own tissues and organs, Braxton admitted she lapsed on her appointments last year. At the constant urging of her physician, Braxton finally went in for a specialized test that found abnormalities in her heart. The ultimate verdict was that her left main coronary artery was severely blocke and she needed a coronary stent, a tiny metal mesh coil that can expand to keep freshly opened passageways from closing again. She also learned she could have had a fatal massive heart attack if she hadn’t caught it when she did. 

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Toni Braxton visits the press room during the “47th Annual American Music Awards” on Nov. 24, 2019 at the Microsoft Theater in Los Angeles. (Photo by David Crotty/Patrick McMullan via Getty Images)

“It was a traumatic moment for me. I was in shock,” she told PEOPLE. 

Braxton initially thought the aching feeling she had been experiencing in her chest was tied to her mourning the death of her sister, Traci Braxton, who died in March 2022.

“I thought, ‘Wow, I’m really aching in my heart for my sister,’” she said. “And come to find out, of course, I was sad about my sister, but I also had underlying health issues. It was my body talking to me, telling me something’s not quite right.”

Two days following the discovery in her heart, Braxton underwent an emergency procedure to insert the stent. Braxton describes the whole ordeal as a “scary moment” for her and realizes how different things could have turned out for her. However, the experience has also had an immediate effect on her health journey. 

“Putting off tests? Oh no, I will not put off tests,” Braxton said. “If all I have to do for my lupus and my kidney health is pee in a cup, I can pee in a cup. How many times do you need me to pee? If all I gotta do is get my arm pricked for some blood? Oh yes, I can do that. How many vials do you need?”

Braxton’s story is extreme, but as a Black woman, she is far from alone. Diagnosed with lupus in 2008, she is one of approximately 1.5 million people living with the autoimmune disease. According to the Lupus Foundation, 90% of people with lupus are women of childbearing age. Black women are three times more likely to be diagnosed and have a more severe case than white women. 

To help spread awareness ahead of May’s Lupus Awareness Month, Braxton has partnered with the Get Uncomfortable campaign, which encourages people not to shy away from uncomfortable conversations with physicians and tests surrounding their diagnoses. 

“I know we’re all scared sometimes to go to the doctor. Especially for me having lupus, I was scared, I didn’t want to know,” Braxton said. “But I find that knowing is empowering, and it gets my doctors on top of my lupus and my kidney health. And that’s the most important thing.”

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