IE 11 is not supported. For an optimal experience visit our site on another browser.

Exclusive: Toni Braxton says she ‘dismissed’ symptoms that could’ve led to heart attack

The "Un-Break My Heart" singer reveals that she needed a stent placed to prevent her from having a widow maker heart attack.
/ Source: TODAY

Toni Braxton faced an almost fatal health scare several months ago.

The “Un-Break My Heart” singer is sharing exclusively with the TODAY show how systemic lupus erythematosus (SLE) “attacked” her heart and she needed to have a coronary stent placed to prevent a heart attack.

“It (was) put in at a really, really scary moment,” the 55-year-old tells TODAY, adding that the experience felt “surreal.”

Braxton is a paid spokesperson with Aurinia Pharmaceuticals' Get Uncomfortable campaign, which encourages people living with lupus nephritis, a common complication of SLE, to complete routine testing to prevent kidney damage.

Braxton tells TODAY that she had a doctor’s appointment she was considering skipping because she thought she was “fine.” Still, she went, and her doctor told her she needed a stent (a device used to hold open passages in the body) placed “immediately," she says.

“A couple days after they did the procedure they told me that it was touch and go,” Braxton told TODAY's Hoda Kotb and Jenna Bush Hager. 

The Grammy winner was experiencing chest pains indicating something was off with her health, but she thought they were from grief over the death of her sister Traci, who passed away in March 2022, reported.

“I just thought it was just sadness,” Braxton says. “It turned out to be much more serious, and I just dismissed the signs ... and a lot of people tend to do that.”

Braxton says that if she hadn't gone to the doctor, she could've had widow-maker heart attack, a type of heart attack that occurs when someone has a complete blockage of the left anterior descending artery, the largest artery in the heart, according to the Cleveland Clinic.

“I would have had a massive heart attack and would not have survived,” she says.

According to the U.S Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, SLE, an autoimmune condition, is the most common type of lupus. When people have lupus, their immune systems attack their bodies, impacting everything from joints to the brain to lungs to kidneys to blood vessels. Nothing cures it, but medication and lifestyle changes can make the condition easier to manage, the CDC says.

In the past, Braxton has been candid about having lupus and her family history with it. She revealed she had lupus in 2010 after being diagnosed with it in 2008, previously reported. In 2012, she shared on Twitter that she was hospitalized with blood clots because of the condition.

In her recent conversation with TODAY, Braxton says she initially felt “ashamed” of her lupus diagnosis and didn’t want to share it publicly. But other people helped her realize she didn’t need to feel badly, and she began opening up about life with the condition.

“It’s so empowering when people come up to me and say, ‘I have lupus, too, and you’ve helped me so much,’” she says.

Though, she admits she struggles sometimes. Healthy eating and having support from friends and family help her manage.

“You have good days and bad days,” she said on the show. “It gets challenging for me because I know I’ll never be able to do a show seven days again.” 

Braxton loves performing so not being able to sing at regular concerts feels bittersweet.

“I can do one offs. I could do a show here and again, not long term,” she said.

Braxton who says she’s “50-fine,” finds that the tough self-love she gave herself earlier in her career allows her to embrace this phase of her life.

“I feel proud of myself,” she said. “I used to beat myself (up).”

Now, Braxton is talking about her health scare to encourage others to seek medical care, especially if they have a chronic health condition.

“You’ve got to get those screenings done,” she says. “It’s very important.”