When fans found out that "The Biggest Loser" trainer Bob Harper had suffered a massive heart attack, they were stunned. After all, how could this happen to such a healthy person at age 51? Now, though, the trainer is answering some of our biggest questions and speaking out about exactly what happened that day — and reminding us all to take good care of our own bodies, no matter how healthy we think we might be.
During an appearance on the TODAY show on Tuesday, Harper revealed that he had gone to the gym with some friends on the morning of Sunday, February 12 . He completed his regular workout routine before he dropped to his knees, suddenly unable to breathe.
"I was in full cardiac arrest," Harper explained to TODAY anchor Savannah Guthrie. "My heart stopped. Not to be dramatic, but I was dead. I was on that ground dead."
Bob Harper's 'Widowmaker'
Thankfully, one of Harper's coaches moved quickly, locating two doctors who were able to perform CPR and give him a jolt of electricity using a defibrillator, a device used to restore the heart's natural rhythm. Paramedics arrived shortly afterward and rushed him to the hospital. And they weren't a moment too soon — Harper had suffered a type of massive heart attack known as a "widowmaker," in which the essential left anterior descending (LAD) artery becomes completely blocked, often resulting in sudden death.
"It was a 6 percent survival rate, and the fact that there were doctors in the gym when I had the heart attack saved my life," Harper said.
Not to be dramatic, but I was dead. I was on that ground dead.
Battling Depression During Recovery
Doctors credit the quick thinking of Harper's coach and Harper's overall physical fitness for his survival. But being in great shape doesn't mean his road to recovery is an easy one: He's been struggling to adjust to his far more sedentary lifestyle — and dealing with depression — since his attack.
"It's been hard," Harper admitted to Guthrie. "You really face your mortality. And I'm really understanding what's important in life."
Despite the emotional ups and downs, Harper says his doctors expect him to make a complete recovery. They placed two stents in his arteries in an effort keep them open and reduce his chance of having a heart attack in the future, and he's been helping his body recover by completing doctor-supervised workouts, making heart-healthy changes to his diet, and spending lots of time relaxing with his beloved dog, Karl.
In the end, Harper's heart attack has forced him to learn a lot about himself, his health, and his family history — something that he now encourages others to do before they experience a serious health issue like he did.
"[My heart attack] was hugely shocking for me,'' Harper told Guthrie. "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."