What Bob Harper's Heart Attack Teaches Us About Diet & Exercise

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When a fitness guru suffers a heart attack, where does that leave the rest of us? Bob Harper's heart attack, just a few weeks ago, is leaving many people wondering just that. You may know Harper, 51, as star trainer turned host from NBC's The Biggest Loser. He has authored several weight-loss books and appeared in workout DVDs.

Harper suffered from a heart attack while working out in a New York City gym. A doctor sprung into action, administering CPR and using a defibrillator. He remained unconscious for two days and eventually woke up in the hospital. Harper says genetics are to blame. His mom suddenly died from a heart attack.

Now, Harper says he's "feeling better" and "on the road to recovery," according to recent posts on his social media accounts. A recent post shows him hooked up to a heart monitor. "I'm required to wear these monitors to see what my heart is doing throughout the day. I feel like a robot from Westworld," the post says.

While Harper sounds optimistic, spectators from the general public do not know what to make of this. Here are just a few examples of comments from the TMZ article about the incident:

  • Heart attack, huh? Must run in his family, just goes to show sometimes it doesn't matter how healthy you are.
  • Exercise kills!!! I knew it!
  • I will never die.
  • Drink beer, eat pork rinds and pizza.
  • Genetics aren't always kind to us!
  • Just goes to show being a health freak doesn't prevent heart attacks. Lol.
  • Unbelievable how someone so fit can succumb to a heart attack.

So does family history seal our fate?

We don't know the ins and outs of Bob Harper's lifestyle or the circumstances surrounding his heart attack at the gym. But family history is just that, history. It doesn't mean your fate is sealed. We know heart disease is common, taking the top spot as leading cause of death in the United States. However, there are many risk factors that can be addressed through lifestyle changes.

Heart disease risk factors include high blood pressure, high LDL cholesterol, smoking, diabetes, obesity/being overweight, poor diet, physical inactivity and excessive alcohol consumption, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention says. Untreated sleep apnea and stress can also contribute, the National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute says, as may inflammation, indicated by high levels of a protein called C-reactive protein (CRP) in the blood, which is currently being studied more.

However, family history can elevate your risk of having a heart attack or developing another form of heart disease. While heart attack risk tends to go up with age, there are genetic conditions that may cause a young person to have a heart attack, such as familial hypercholesterolemia, which may be as common as 1 in 250 people worldwide.

So while your genetics may increase your risk, keep in mind that so do various other environmental and lifestyle factors. You can be proactive and lower your overall risk by changing some of the aforementioned behaviors that increase your chances of getting heart disease.

You can also get preventive screenings and tests done before symptoms emerge so you can work with a knowledgeable health care professional to decrease your risk. One way to get insight into your genetic predisposition is by genome sequencing. My test results told me my risk of heart attack is "moderate high." The good news is I can be proactive and make healthy lifestyle changes now, including eating a healthy diet with fatty fish and omega-3s, exercising, refraining from smoking and heavy alcohol consumption, reducing stress, and treating existing conditions such as high blood pressure or cholesterol

You can also consider asking your doctor about blood tests that check your cardiovascular health, including inflammation, lipid deposits, endothelial dysfunction, clotting factors, and more.

Ready to learn how to fight inflammation and address autoimmune disease through the power of food? Join our 5-Day Inflammation Video Summit with mindbodygreen’s top doctors.

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