"The Biggest Loser” TV show host and celebrity trainer Bob Harper, 51, appears to be the picture of health and fitness. Yet he recently suffered a heart attack, which surprised not only the trainer himself, but also those who know him, given his healthy lifestyle. While regular physical activity and eating well are parts of his daily routine, he could not control his genetic makeup. His mother died from a heart attack at an early age.

Concerns and questions began to swirl, however, when it was reported Bob was working out when the heart attack occurred. The general population was asking: Does vigorous activity or any cardiovascular exercise increase your risk of becoming a heart attack victim?

The short answer is no – cardiac exercise does not increase your chance or cause heart attacks. Regular physical activity is still recommended for 30 to 60 minutes each day at least five times a week for optimal health. Another thing to keep in mind if you suffer from any cardiac event: you’re more likely to get help in a crowded place such as a gym surrounded by others versus sitting at home on the couch.

Heart Burn Or Heart Attack
 When is a good time to start a new exercise regimen?

It’s always recommended to talk to your doctor before beginning any new exercise routine. Time, intensity and an individual’s health status or history can determine the best plan for improving overall health. If, for example, physical activity is not a part of your daily routine, it’s probably not a good idea to run a race on a whim or take the latest high-intensity interval training (HIIT) class with a friend. When you do start to exercise, you want to move slowly and work toward increasing time, intensity and your heart rate – the key in burning fat and strengthening the heart muscle.

What are risk factors for heart disease you can control?

There are risk factors a person can control to reduce heart disease and heart attacks. They include:

  • Managing cholesterol
  • Managing weight
  • Limiting alcohol consumption
  • Controlling your glucose (sugar) levels – especially with diabetes
  • Quitting smoking
  • Getting enough sleep (7 to 9 hours each night for adults)
  • Eating healthy food and eating the right amount of calories for your activity level
  • Getting regular physical activity

Doctors will tell you to listen to your body and don’t ignore signs, symptoms or when something doesn’t feel right. When it comes to matters of the heart, men and women can experience heart attack symptoms in different ways. [The infographic included here outlines those differences].

The takeaway message is that when you make better choices, you live better. Whether you’re young or old, healthy or living with chronic disease, active or inactive, keep your doctor’s appointments and don’t compare your health or lifestyle with anyone else’s.

So while a personal trainer with a family history of heart disease may have suffered a heart attack, his dedication to fitness and commitment to health allowed him to recover faster.

For more information on PinnacleHealth Cardiovascular Institute, visit pinnaclehealth.org/heart.