Personal trainer Bob Harper, who hosts the fitness competition program Biggest Loser, recently confirmed in a statement that he had suffered a heart attack two weeks prior. He was reportedly working out at a New York City gym when he collapsed, and a doctor at the gym administered CPR with paddles to keep him alive.
Harper spent more than a week in the hospital, and the Los Angeles-based host had to extend his stay in New York because he had not been given clearance from his doctors to fly home.
Many are wondering how someone like Harper, who espouses a healthy lifestyle, could have suffered from a heart attack at just 51 years of age. In his case, genetics could be to blame. His mother died of a heart attack, which is something he has long cited as one of the driving forces behind his interest in health and fitness. Having a parent with heart disease makes a person more likely to suffer from it themselves. This is considered a heart attack risk factor that cannot be changed, which is why those who already have the odds stacked against them due to genetics need to work on the factors they can change, such as diet and exercise.
While some people are expressing concern about working out after hearing about his heart attack during exercise, it is important to note that a 2015 study in the journal Circulation says that only 5 percent of people aged 35 to 65 who suffered sudden cardiac arrests were working out at the time. Moreover, it found that a person’s odds of surviving a heart attack were higher if it happened during exercise because they are more likely to be near others who can perform CPR or call an ambulance.
While intense exercise can technically trigger a heart attack, this is a lot less likely in a person who is already as fit as Harper was. Moreover, good health habits like exercise and a clean diet can help people recover more quickly from heart attacks and prevent them from recurring.
Mediterranean diet recommended post-heart attack
Since the life-threatening incident, Harper’s doctors have instructed him to follow the Mediterranean diet. He shared one of his heart-friendly dinners with his Twitter followers: branzino, a type of sea bass, with Brussels sprouts and a salad. The Mediterranean diet has been shown in countless studies to help protect the entire cardiovascular system, preventing the risk of peripheral artery disease, stroke, and heart attacks.
The diet focuses on a high consumption of foods like olive oil, beans, nuts, seeds, and whole grains. Fish and poultry are consumed in moderate amounts, while red meat is discouraged. Cheese and yogurt are the main sources of dairy in the diet but are only eaten in limited amounts, while some red wine is also allowed.
A study in Spain found that supplementing the diet with additional extra-virgin olive oil enhanced its protective effects. In fact, it was so effective that the study had to be ended early because the results were so clear that it would have been unethical for them to continue.
What won’t you find on the Mediterranean diet? High-fructose corn syrup, sugar, processed carbohydrates and processed foods in general are all prohibited. These are foods that should not be part of any diet because they are void of nutrients and loaded with hidden toxins.
Harper credits the company of his dog with helping him get through this challenging time, and he says he has been reading up on heart health. He has also had to modify his vigorous workout routine as his body recovers, taking a break from Crossfit and going for walks with his dog instead.
While those who are happy to find any excuse not to exercise are already using Harper’s situation as justification for their unhealthy habits, experts insist that the overall benefits of exercise for your heart far outweigh any risks.