Every 40 seconds, an American has heart attack. A heart attack can happen to anyone—even if you don’t have the typical heart disease risk factors. Fitness guru and heart attack survivor Bob Harper is living proof.
“I never thought that I was going to have a heart attack,” says Harper. “When I woke up in the hospital two days after my heart attack, being told what had happened to me, I couldn’t believe it.”
On February 12, 2017 when the former The Biggest Loser trainer experienced a near-fatal heart attack at the gym, he made it to the hospital in time, thanks to a doctor on site and the help of a defibrillator. Many people, however, aren’t as lucky. About 47% of sudden cardiac deaths occur outside a hospital, which suggests that many people don’t act on early heart disease warning signs.
Before his heart attack, Harper’s body was trying to talk to him. Looking back, he realized he had been having heart attack warning signs, but he brushed them off as something else. “I was experiencing dizzy spells. One time I actually fainted in the gym. It was my body telling me that something was wrong,” he says. “I broke a cardinal rule of mine, and that is to listen to your body and I did not do that. I figured that maybe I was just dehydrated. I had all these excuses.”
Since his heart attack, Harper’s not only made some serious changes to his already-healthy lifestyle, like his post-heart attack diet and modified exercise routine, but he’s also adamant about maintaining a good relationship with his doctors and heeding their advice. “I didn’t know that I would be likely to have another heart attack within the first year. That was a huge wakeup call for me and that’s when I really decided that I was going to do whatever my doctors told me to do,” says Harper.
Harper has teamed up with the awareness and advocacy cause Survivors Have Heart (supported by AstraZeneca), which helps educate other heart attack survivors on the importance of working with their healthcare provider and staying committed to treatment and the lifestyle plan prescribed by their doctor.
“The main thing that I would tell people is to really know your health. Know what’s going on, see your healthcare provider, make sure that you know your health from the inside out,” says Harper.