Why athletes like Bob Harper have heart attacks
When I saw a recent TV commercial with celebrity fitness trainer Bob Harper explaining that he’s now on medication because he had a heart attack; I was shocked. How can someone who’s so fit, only 52, who exercises all the time, and eats a clean diet, have a heart attack at 51? While, his mother died from a heart attack at 70 (1), and likely passed on a hereditary heart condition, because a high number of lipoproteins (A) were found in his blood (2), was that the definitive cause, or was it caused by his so-called clean Paleo diet (4)?
That makes me feel like no one is safe no matter what precautions they take, but a “clean diet” is not necessarily a healthy diet. A clean diet is typically one in which lean meats, whey protein shakes, mostly low-carbohydrate vegetables, sweet potatoes or yams, grains (typically rice-except this is not allowed on a paleo diet), some fruit, a little bit of oil, and a few nuts and seeds are consumed regularly. Not only is this diet limiting, but it’s really high in animal protein. In 2015, Bob Harper…”told Rachel Ray that he eats two to three eggs for breakfast each morning because he “wants the protein and the fat.” Even when you don’t eat fatty animal protein, “…there’s reason to believe that diets that are too high in protein lead to the formation of arterial plaque…” which increases the risk of plaque buildup (1). Bob Harper told NBC: “I was a big carnivore before. I worked with my cardiologist and what we came up with for me was to be more plant-based, leaning towards a Mediterranean lifestyle. I am really aware of the fats that I consume, even the good fats. Since my heart attack I haven’t had any red meat at all” (3).
But, what’s interesting is that he didn’t go back to being a vegan, or even a vegetarian. Maybe that’s because, if we cut meat out of our diet completely, we will be void of vitamin B12. If we don’t eat any animal products and don’t take supplements that fill in the gaps, the chances are likely that iron levels will be low, there will be hair loss, low energy, and illness will ensue.
While we can take vitamin B12 in pill or liquid form, omitting animal meat completely, just doesn’t work for everyone, but we can all benefit from limiting how much animal products we eat, and this is exactly what Harper did. He says, “Not only have I had to change my diet, which is much more balanced and plant based, I have changed the way that I workout, which is more balanced too. I don’t rely on super high intensity workouts any longer” (4).
Too much of anything is hard on the body. I hope that more people take to heart what Bob Harper has gone through; just because a gym rat looks healthy one day, doesn’t mean he’ll be alive the next.
Photo: Chose the vegan cheesecake over that cheat meal. Your heart will thank you.
- Ossola, Alexandra. “How Could Someone As Fit As Bob Harper Have a Heart Attack? If the Biggest Loser host can’t hack it, what the hell does that mean for the rest of us?” 27 Feb. 2017. Tonic (blog). https://tonic.vice.com/en_us/article/jpnea7/how-does-someone-as-fit-as-bob-harper-have-a-heart-attack
- Chen, Joyce. “Bob Harper completes cardiac rehab four months after near-fatal heart attack” 25, June 2017. Today (blog). https://www.today.com/health/bob-harper-completes-rehab-after-near-fatal-heart-attack-t113113
- Steinhilber, Brianna. “What we can all learn from Bob Harper’s shocking heart attack. Heart disease is the number one killer in the United States. Here’s how to protect yourself.” 7 Feb. 2018. NBC. Better (blog). https://www.nbcnews.com/better/health/what-every-single-person-needs-know-about-heart-health-ncna844881
- Aol.com Editors “Bob Harper reflects on the year since he suffered a heart attack. 9 Feb. 2018. Aol.com (blog). https://www.aol.com/article/entertainment/2018/02/09/bob-harper-reflects-on-the-year-since-he-suffered-a-heart-attack/23357918/
- Ayuda, Tiffany. “What Bob Harper Learned from His Heart Attack (And What You Can, Too)” Daily burn life. Health (blog). 2 Feb. 2018. http://dailyburn.com/life/health/bob-harper-heart-disease/