When super-fit “Biggest Loser” coach Bob Harper suffered a heart attack in his local gym while working out, everything changed for him in an instant. His story is proof positive that being in shape is simply not enough to guarantee protection from a heart attack — an affliction that will affect 735,000 Americans this year.
You probably know strength and fitness coach Bob Harper from his multiple appearances on the long-running NBC primetime show, The Biggest Loser. If you’ve ever watched the series, you know that Bob is one of the most vigilant, enthusiastic proponents of diet and exercise you could ever hope to meet. Yet, viewers and news readers across America were stunned to learn that, in February, Mr. Harper collapsed while in his Crossfit gym in the middle of a workout.
He doesn’t remember much — according to Bob, one minute he was working out with friends, and the next, he woke up two days later in the hospital not understanding what had happened to him. Bob considers the fact that doctors were present and active on the scene to be the only reason that he’s still around today to tell his tale. As it turns out, Bob (who is 51 years old) has a family history of heart attacks: a genetic predisposition that is so powerful, it overrode even the fact that he has dedicated nearly his entire adult life to fitness. Bob also credits the fact that defibrillators were available on-site for the fact that he is still alive. In fact, he now swears that he will never step foot in another gym that doesn’t contain the devices — and plans to spread the word about the importance of their availability.
Bob’s story is a sobering reminder for those of us who are already generally in shape and eat right: a heart attack is a common, deadly affliction that can strike without warning. It does not only occur in the obese and unhealthy (although people who meet those descriptions are far more likely to suffer one). In Bob’s case, his family history of heart attacks likely played an enormous role in the fact that he had one at the age of 51.
If you know that you’re at risk for a heart attack because of your family history, you should bring that fact up with your doctor as soon as possible. Together, you can come up with a lifestyle plan that maximizes heart health and minimizes your chances of being struck by a heart attack. One lifestyle change that Mr. Harper plans to institute in his life immediately is the adoption of a “Mediterranean diet”, a diet that is strongly linked in studies to boost heart health and diminish the likelihood of a heart attack. This is a diet that involves a bare minimum of common food items such as meats, dairy, and saturated fats. Instead, fruits, vegetables, grains, and fish will form the cornerstones of Bob’s diet moving forward.
Genetics are a lot to overcome for anyone — so if you have a predisposition for heart attacks or any other hereditary affliction, it’s critically important that you communicate that to your doctor, and adjust your life accordingly. Just ask Bob if he wishes he had done that sooner!