Celebrity trainer, Bob Harper, experienced a heart attack at age 52. CPR saved his life. Now his … [+] mission is to have everyone CPR-certified.
During one of his daily workouts in the gym, celebrity trainer Bob Harper was about to experience a life-altering, near-fatal event. The fitness phenom with a strict dietary regimen had a heart attack and cardiac arrest. He was 52. If it weren’t for the swift actions of a doctor who was working out at the same time and who immediately initiated high-quality CPR, Harper may not be here today. “I woke up in the hospital two days later…it was a traumatic time,” recalled the former television host. During my recent interview (below) with Harper, I asked about his harrowing experience, life today, and shared my own father’s heart attack story which included multi-vessel open heart (coronary bypass) surgery.
Harper and my father’s stories are not unique. According to the CDC, 805,000 people in the United States experience a heart attack, or myocardial infarction (MI), each year. Recognition of symptoms is key. While Harper did not have ‘classic’ heart attack symptoms, most people experience one or more of the following: chest pain or discomfort, shortness of breath, upper back or neck pain, indigestion, heartburn, nausea or vomiting and extreme fatigue. Women also present differently: nausea and fatigue (vs. chest pain) may be the leading symptoms, or they may have no symptoms at all.
Knowing and reducing your risk factors for heart disease can transform your life. Harper agrees: “Information is power. Know your own health, see your doctor, take care of your health.” Cardiologists like Khadijah Breathett, MD, MS, FACC make it a priority to review the American Heart Association’s (AHA) Life’s Simple 7.
“Controlling these seven risk factors can reduce the risk of coronary heart disease, stroke and heart failure,” explains Dr. Breathett, associate professor of medicine at Indiana University Health. “They include regular exercise, eating healthy meals (low fat, low cholesterol, rich in vegetables), losing weight to maintain BMI <25, not using tobacco, maintain controlled blood pressure, controlled cholesterol and controlled glucose level.”
Ischemic heart disease, specifically a heart attack (or myocardial infarction) is the leading cause … [+] of death worldwide.
Today, five years after his heart attack, Harper has a renewed sense of purpose. “I’m lucky to be alive,” says the charismatic heart attack survivor. Harper and his Survivors Have Heart community are on a mission to inspire everyone to become CPR certified. June 1-7th was CPR and AED Awareness Week, but both Harper and I agreed that every day should be CPR and AED day. “People get nervous, they get scared,” described the author and advocate. “’Am I gonna do something wrong?’ and I say you’re not going to do anything wrong.” I remind trainees and patients all the time that breaking a rib or two is okay; you need to get blood flowing from the heart to the brain. Formal CPR training teaches people how to perform high-quality CPR.
“Any first responder – from students to bystander adults to caregivers – can save lives by using CPR and AED skills before emergency medical providers arrive at the scene,” describes Ami Bhatt, MD, FACC, Chief Innovation Officer, American College of Cardiology.
Hands-only CPR certification is easy and you can save a life.
According to Dr. Bhatt, out-of-hospital sudden cardiac arrests affect over 300,000 people in the U.S. annually. Early defibrillation using an AED has the greatest impact on survival. “The national survival rate from sudden cardiac arrest is approximately 10% but research shows that survival could be upwards of 70% if an AED is used within three minutes,” says Dr. Bhatt, associate professor at Harvard Medical School.
An exciting future innovation: portable AEDs that could be carried in a purse or backpack are “right around the corner.” Hopefully, having easier access and feeling more comfortable with the device will make people more likely to use an AED. In the meantime, Dr. Bhatt reminds us not to be afraid: “the AED will walk you through what you need to do, and you could save a life.”
Dr. Breathett couldn’t agree more. “CPR is easy to learn and may make the difference between life and death for a family member, friend, or stranger.” She strongly encourages everyone to sign up for a CPR class through your local AHA chapter, online or in-person.
AED box or Automated External Defibrillator along with high-quality CPR can save a life.
In addition, Dr. Breathett pointed out a special hands-only program designed by interventional cardiologist, Dr. Anezi Uzendu, to make CPR education more accessible to minoritized patient populations called Make BLS Basic.
My last question to Harper was what key message he would give the public. “Get CPR certified. It’s not just for service-oriented people like trainers and flight attendants. It’s for everyone. YOU could be the one person who changes their life!”
For his relentless advocacy on heart health, I ‘awarded’ Harper an honorary medical degree: “Dr. Bob Harper – I like that!” Get trained in CPR and AED use – YOU can be an angel saving someone’s life — or someone else can be an angel saving yours.