A while back in the news was a report that Bob Harper had a heart attack. This made world news because Bob is a celebrity fitness trainer. His life is the epitome of health perfection, eating healthy, and exercising. He does everything right and it is reflected in his slender, muscular appearance, his great energy, and pleasant mood.
So why did he have a heart attack at age 51 while working out in a New York gym? The answer is likely genetics. His mother died of heart disease and considering that men are at higher risk of heart disease than women, Bob had the odds stacked against him.
But no worries because Bob got a second chance at life thanks to modern medicine. Fortunately, there was a doctor at the gym who performed CPR, then defibrillated Bob’s heart with a jolt electrical current. Bob spent 2 days unconscious in the hospital and eventually made a full recovery. Fortunately, he was in excellent health otherwise and escaped complications that are very common in people who are recovering from near death.
If Bob had not exercised and ate properly, he could have developed complications like blood clots, organ failure, and infections. Those unexpected scenarios lead to debilitating strokes, permanent kidney failure, and amputations of limbs. So, Bob, all your hard work did pay off because you recovered so quickly from your death experience.
So what now? I suspect Bob’s cardiologists have put him on a statin to extend his life. I don’t know this for sure, but as a pharmacist, I know that statistically, statins extend life.
There was a recent study examining how statins affect the lifespan of healthy men in their 50s— just like Bob was prior to his heart attack.
The study found that for a healthy man in his 50s, without diabetes, without high blood pressure, and without high cholesterol—statins have the potential to extend life by 8.5 years or 99 months.
The study also went on to say that not everyone who takes statins will benefit that much. It’s only a small minority of 3% that will benefit that much. 1
The take-home message from this study: if your doctor has identified you as someone who would benefit from statins, I highly recommend you take them.
There are other studies that say if you have had a heart attack and then take statins, you will benefit even more. It depends on the dose of the statin. The higher the statin dose that you can tolerate without side effects, the longer you will live. The more compliant you are about taking your medicine, the longer you will live. I also suspect the healthier your diet and exercise regimen is—the longer you will live. Perhaps the more optimistic you are the live longer you will live…etc.
Those studies express their results in rates of reduced mortality. They don’t express them in a number of years you will live longer.
It’s hard to say for sure how much longer Bob will live now that he has had a heart attack, but I think it’s safe to say he will definitely live longer if he follows his physician’s instructions and takes a statin.
I wish Bob a long healthy life. He is a magnificent human being for inspiring so many people. Best of luck to you Bob, and despite all the negative talk about statins, I sincerely hope you take the medicine that your doctor prescribes so that we can enjoy you for a longer period of time here on earth.
To answer the title questions, statins could have potentially delayed his near-death experience by 8 years.
1. Finegold JA, Shun-Shin MJ, Cole GD, et al. Distribution of lifespan gain from primary prevention intervention. Open Heart. 2016;3:e000343. DOI: 10.1136/openhrt-2015-000343.