What Bob Harper Learned from His Heart Attack (And What You Can, Too)

=”font-weight: 400;”>traditional weights and simple exercises — things I didn’t do before, “Harper says.

3. Aim for a healthy weight.

Maintaining a healthy weight reduces your risk for heart disease, stroke and high blood pressure. But don’t focus on the number on the scale. It’s more important to concentrate on your body fat percentage, Dr. Steinbaum says. “That’s usually a more accurate indication of what’s going on. When you have abdominal obesity, that’s when you have a higher risk for these conditions.”

Despite being lean, Harper had a sneaky heart attack. “It was a big surprise to me that I had a heart attack,” Harper admits. “But it goes to show that heart disease doesn’t care who you are. It only cares about what you’re doing.”

4. Prioritize sleep and reduce stress.

Stress and anxiety can contribute to heart disease risk. That’s why Dr. Steinbaum advises getting at least seven hours of sleep each night and finding ways to reduce stress. “Mindfulness, meditation, yoga and relaxation strategies all play a big role in reducing your risk for heart disease,” Dr. Steinbaum says.

Harper adds that finding ways to de-stress can’t be overlooked. “Stress management has been so important for me,” Harper shares. “Every morning I meditate for about 10 minutes and try to listen to music every day, too. I think it’s so important to have balance in all aspects of your life.”

5. Don’t ignore your body’s warning signs.

One of the scariest moments after his heart attack was when Harper didn’t feel good. “There was a time when I didn’t feel right, the same symptoms I had when I had my heart attack, and I kept telling myself it wasn’t happening again,” Harper recalls. “But once I reached out to my doctor, I found that I had shingles—in the future, I won’t deny what’s going on with my body.”

Dr. Steinbaum stresses it’s key to be in tune with what’s normal for your body so you notice when something is off. “The most important thing you can do is advocate for yourself,” she says. “If you’re not feeling well, have your doctor listen to you. Your symptoms are always real.”

Harper’s Heart Healthy Diet and Fitness Routine

Harper stresses the importance of making small, but powerful, changes to protect your heart health. Here’s how he’s keeping his health in check.

On His Diet:

After his heart attack, Harper now focuses on incorporating whole grains and lean protein into his diet. “I’ve been eating a lot more foods high in fiber like black beans, lentils, quinoa and whole grain breads,” Harper says. “I’ve shifted my focus and used to just eat the whites of eggs, but now I eat the whole egg — the yolk included.

In addition to clean eating, he’s still focused on a balanced diet that includes the right macronutrients. “I make sure I do not cut any food group out of my diet. I still eat fat. I still eat protein. I still eat carbohydrates,” Harper says.

On Exercise:

“Once I got my clear bill of health, my exercise routine amped up. I started with walking and now I’m stronger than I’ve ever been,” Harper says. “I cherish every single workout.”

Harper is also a fan of heart rate-monitoring fitness trackers. “I’ve been using them forever, but now it’s even given me more motivation to keep those numbers in check,” he says. “It tells me if I’m working too hard. Or it tells me that I need to push a little bit more.”

Ultimately, Harper’s heart attack was a reminder to prioritize his health. “We all have to be advocates for our own health,” Harper says.

Want more Bob Harper wisdom? Read What Bob Harper Wants You to Know About Protein Shakes

yoga,” he says. The key is to become more active, whether that’s through HIIT, running, or weightlifting.

3. Manage stress.

In addition to diet and exercise, Dr. Steinbaum emphasizes that keeping stress and anxiety to a minimum is an important component of heart disease prevention. “Stress can cause depression and increase heart disease risk two to four-fold. Managing these aspects of our lives is critical for preventing heart disease,” she says. To help alleviate stress, Harper practices transcendental meditation. “Engaging in transcendental meditation makes me feel better. When I practice yoga and meditation, I’m able to make time for myself and be present for everyone in my life,” Harper says.

4. See your doctor regularly.

Cholesterol and blood pressure aren’t the only numbers you should be tracking. Dr. Steinbaum recommends monitoring significant weight gain or changes in your blood sugar levels. “What’s interesting is that many women learn about their heart disease risk when they’re pregnant because they might develop high blood pressure and gestational diabetes during this time,” Dr. Steinbaum explains. Heart disease takes decades to develop, but the real risks occur in your 20s and 30s. “Being overweight or obese can predispose you for heart disease and other conditions, like diabetes and metabolic syndrome. They’re all interrelated,” she says.

RELATED: Is Sugar Worse Than Salt When It Comes to Your Heart?

5. Stay committed to your health.

You can’t change your genes, but what you can control about your heart health is how well you take care of it. “Heart disease is 80 percent preventable. When people know that they can reverse their risks through healthy lifestyle choices, it makes the disease less scary,” Dr. Steinbaum says. For Harper, it means being able to trust his heart again. “During my recovery, it took a lot for me to go back to the gym and know that my heart could handle it,” he says. “The gym was a safe and happy place for me before my heart attack, so it’s been a growth experience. It has completely changed my relationship with my heart.”

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