Food writer Julie Powell’s death at 49 sheds light on cardiac arrest

Her husband, Eric Powell, reported to The New York Times on Tuesday that the author died of cardiac arrest on October 26 at their home in Olivebridge, New York.

While many fans took to social media to express their condolences, questions arose around some of Powell’s latest tweets, including his recent recovery from COVID-19 and a “black hairy tongue.”

On October 25, a day before Powell’s death, the food writer tweeted that she woke up with a black hairy tongue, further adding, “People including my doctor seem to think this isn’t It’s okay and they’ll be gone soon, but it sure is rude.”

Although alarming on sight, black hairy tongue is a mild and temporary condition that can be caused by a variety of factors, including excessive consumption of alcohol, coffee or black tea, dehydration, smoking, poor oral hygiene or even certain medications, according to Dr. Darien. Sutton, a board-certified emergency physician and ABC News medical contributor.

Earlier this fall, in September, Powell – who gained notoriety as the food writer behind the Julie/Julia blog which chronicled his journey cooking the 524 recipes in Julia Child’s “Mastering The Art of French Cooking” – tweeted about suffering from COVID-19, writing that his symptoms included fatigue and a cough.

According to Sutton, there is “no reason to believe” that Powell’s diagnosis of black hairy tongue is associated with his battle with COVID-19.

Sutton said we also have “no evidence” that his death was associated with his COVID diagnosis.

“I think the reason people have speculated about this is because we know there’s an association between COVID-19 and an increased risk of certain conditions that can cause cardiac arrest,” Sutton said, noting that data shows that patients with COVID-19 are more likely to face increased risks of heart attacks, abnormal heart rhythms and blood clots.

In Powell’s case, the only known fact about her death is her husband’s report that it was due to cardiac arrest, which is a broad term, according to Sutton.

“It just means the heart has stopped working,” he said of the cardiac arrest. “We don’t know her medical history other than what she relayed in her tweets.”

The disease can be caused by a range of things like diabetes, smoking, poor diet, lack of physical activity and more. Sutton added that it’s also possible to experience cardiac arrest due to factors unrelated to heart disease, such as problems with the lungs, electrolytes or blood disorders.

“Unfortunately for cardiac arrest there are no real symptoms,” Sutton said. “It’s often a sudden loss of consciousness.”

If you see someone faint, Sutton recommends calling 911 immediately and starting CPR.

The American Heart Association offers resources for people who want education and training to provide first aid and CPR that could save a life.