'Biggest Loser' Trainer Almost Lost His Life

Bob Harper's story shows why CPR, AEDs matter.

Donna Siegfried is the senior director for first aid programs at the National Safety Council.

​You might not expect a lean personal trainer with a meticulous diet to be the victim of a heart attack, but that's exactly the story the trainer told various news outlets last week. The fact that he lived to tell it at all was a testament to the value of first aid training and equipment.

The story of Bob Harper – who you might recognize from his role as a personal trainer on TV's "The Biggest Loser" program – provides two lessons. First, heart disease can exist in the fittest people. At age 51, Harper was in excellent condition when, while working out at a New York City gym in February, he suffered a sudden heart attack.

Second, when heart attacks happen, time is of the essence, and a combination of tools and training can be the difference between life and death. In Harper's case, he was in cardiac arrest, with his heart stopped, when two doctors in the gym were able to give him cardiopulmonary resuscitation (CPR) and use an automated external defibrillator (AED) to shock his heart before paramedics arrived.

What happened to Harper can happen anywhere; sudden cardiac arrest represents 13% of all workplace deaths. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, some 610,000 people die every year from heart disease – that's one in every four deaths in the United States.

The best defense against a sudden heart event is to be trained in first aid and CPR; all CPR training includes information on how to properly use an AED. While AEDs are not in every workplace, the starting of CPR on a person in the middle of a cardiac event can be of utmost importance.

The importance of the training and the devices became very clear to Bob Harper.

"I will never, ever, walk into a gym again that doesn't have people who know CPR and an AED somewhere in that gym," Harper told CNN. "And I will make sure that every place has something like that."

Taking the time to get trained in CPR and AED use might take a few hours of your time. But that's surely worth the extra years you might be able to give someone who has suffered a heart attack.

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