Battling Your Genetics

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A few weeks ago, news broke out that The Biggest Loser trainer Bob Harper had a heart attack while working out.  Thankfully, he is going to be just fine.  He has said that heart issues run in his family and his mother died from a heart attack, so this is most likely a genetic issue.  He’s a very lucky man.

Unfortunately, after this, I’ve seen comments online from people saying things like “See, exercising and being fit clearly doesn’t mean you’re healthy” and “If he didn’t work out so much, he wouldn’t have had a heart attack.”

Well, you’re not Bob’s doctor, nor are you all seeing, so you don’t know if that is true or not, now do you?  I bet you’re not even a doctor at all.

To quote from a USA Today article

While vigorous exercise can sometimes act as a trigger for a heart attack, it’s less likely to happen in someone who is already fit, according to the American College of Sports Medicine. The overall heart benefits of exercise “far outweigh” any risk, the group says.


“Physical fitness and a heart healthy diet don’t confer immortality,” but do lower risks, says Prediman K. Shah, a cardiologist and professor of medicine at Cedars-Sinai in Los Angeles. Good health habits also help people recover from heart attacks and prevent recurrences, he says.

So no.  The exercise was likely not the trigger for the heart attack, and because Bob is so fit, that’s likely why he survived and will recover.  Sure, his genetics tried to take him down, but his healthy habits are what kept him alive.  And of course, he’s going to make some dietary changes to make sure that he is doing everything he can to keep his heart healthy.

It’s so sad to see people use someone else’s health issues as a reason to not exercise.  “This could potentially kill me, so I’m not going to do it.”  You know what else could potentially kill you?  Just about everything.  Airplanes, cars, falling vending machines, the list goes on and on.

So if you’re using Bob Harper’s heart attack as an excuse to sit on the couch and eat chips because then you won’t die of a heart attack in the gym, you’re fooling yourself.  (Okay, so if you never go to the gym, you won’t die of a heart attack there, but that’s just semantics.)  In general, being active is healthier than being inactive.  Eating well 50% of the time is healthier than eating well 5% of the time.

This doesn’t mean you have to be skinny, and I certainly don’t think you should use any of The Biggest Loser’s tactics to get “healthy.”  In fact, the tactics that they and many others use to “shed the weight” are ultimately unhealthy and bad for your body.  Instead, I think Bob’s heart attack is a reminder that even though we can’t change our genetics, we do have some ability to change how those genetics impact us.

2 thoughts on “Battling Your Genetics

  1. You are correct, people some times misinterpret an occurrence to suit their preconceived notions and an incentive to stay within their comfort zone. You are right Bob was fitter and hence he survived, with better diet choices the reoccurrence of the heart attack will be less likely. While working out is good for health but excess is always bad when you are not prepared for that extreme extra effort
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