What you can learn from ‘Biggest Loser’ host’s brush with death

What you can learn from ‘Biggest Loser’ host’s brush with death

Fitness guru and Biggest Loser trainer Bob Harper recently spoke about his experience when he collapsed in a gym from a heart attack. He shared some of what he had learned in the 50 days following his cardiac arrest.

Know your risk factors for heart disease. Know your body.

Given his relatively young age (51) and his fitness level, it was a surprise to many to hear that Harper suffered a heart attack.

“It was hugely shocking for me,” Harper said on the TODAY show. “I’ve learned a lot about myself. I’ve learned a lot about the fact that genetics played a part in this. It is so important to know your health.”

“So many factors play into developing heart disease,” says Jennifer Lanz, nurse practitioner with Advocate Heart Institute at BroMenn Medical Center in Normal, Ill. “Not every person fits into the ‘cookie cutter’ mold people think of. It is important to have routine screenings for blood pressure and cholesterol. All adults should be established with a primary care provider and discuss their individual cardiac risk. Maintaining a healthy weight and being active are huge parts of staying healthy, but you need to include all the pieces of the puzzle to really prevent heart disease.”

Learn CPR and how to use an AED.

Harper was given CPR by physicians who happened to be in the gym when he collapsed. “I will never, ever walk into a gym that doesn’t have people who know CPR and an AED,” Harper told TODAY.

Many public areas now have AED’s (automated external defibrillators) but CPR is a skill that you can take anywhere.

“It’s very easy to become certified in CPR,” says Jan Berlin, American Heart Association training coordinator at Advocate BroMenn Medical Center. “Most of the time, it is a significant other, a loved one, or a family member [that needs CPR]. That’s why it’s really important to learn this live-saving skill.”

Depression is common after a heart attack.

According to the American Heart Association, studies show that up to 33 percent of heart attack patients end up developing some degree of depression. Emotions can affect your recovery so the AHA encourages heart attack survivors to seek professional help if needed.

“It’s been hard,” Harper said. “I’m going through some depression. You really face your mortality. And I’m really understanding what’s important in life.”

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  1. Did he have a heart attack OR a cardiac arrest? Was it an circulation issue (attack) or an electrical problem (arrest)?

  2. Tom Gould

    Susan is right.. it sure signs like a cardiac arrest as opposed to a heart attack. These are two distinct events.. Bob Harper can use his celebrity to educate as the difference between these 2 serious events. As a cardiac arrest survivor, I can tell you that before my .ca, I thought that both a heart attack and a cardiac arrest were synonymous. I have been educated since my episode, and can attest these are separate and distinct events.

    • Lynn Hutley

      During the interview on NBC, Bob Harper stated that he had a “widow maker” heart attack, a common reference to an issue with the left anterior descending artery. He went on to say that he experienced cardiac arrest (had no heart rhythm) while at the gym and an AED was used before paramedics arrived. We don’t have further details on his condition.

  3. How about an article with advice on where we can get CPR training in our Northwest Chicago suburbs?

About the Author

Lynn Hutley
Lynn Hutley

Lynn Hutley, health enews contributor, is coordinator of public affairs and marketing at Advocate BroMenn Medical Center and Advocate Eureka Hospital in central Illinois. Having grown up in a family-owned drug store, it is no surprise that Lynn has spent almost 18 years working in the health care industry. She has a degree in human resources management from Illinois State University and is always ready to tackle Trivia Night.