Mike was forced into retirement after 2004 because of triple bypass surgery. He was 39 years old at the time.
In 2007 Mike suffered a heart attack.
Mike passed away awaiting a heart transplant. He was 48 years old. No one in Mike's family had a history of heart problems, apparently.
Mike's own words about it all.....
"Oh, god, where do I begin? I'd have to say that everything that led to my heart problem began the minute I started getting serious about competitive bodybuilding. In order to get bigger, I'd eat five, six, seven pounds of red meat a day, no vegetables. And I'd stay away from fruits because of their sugar.
Worst were the chemicals. I have so many memories of being alone in a hotel room the week, five days or two days before a contest, and doing unspeakable things to my body—steroids, growth hormones, diuretics—anything and everything that we as bodybuilders do to achieve a certain look.It has affected my whole life, so to all those guys who are on an eternal quest to have 21" arms and 20" calves, and who are so vain about their never-say-die attitude, I say, "Change your attitude." Worry about keeping that body of yours as healthy as possible, because it's going to have to last you not just through your next contest or to the end of your bodybuilding contract, but for a long time. And a long time for a human being is nothing. It goes by real quick, even quicker when your health is gone and you have nothing to stand live for."
In 2002, Don Youngblood won the Masters Mr. Olympia. In 2005, Don died of a massive heart attack at 51 years of age.
From an interview with Don....
When I asked Don to describe his off-season eating he summed it up with one word - "Nauseating... because I have to eat so much. I eat about 500 grams of protein a day mostly from beef, chicken, eggs and protein powder." He also drinks a lot of American Bodybuilding beverages. As for carbohydrates, Don staggers his carb intake in the off-season. He generally consumes between 400-500 grams of carbs a day but about twice a week allows himself "big carbs" to make sure he doesn't get depleted. "I try to take in as much fat as I want in the off-season," says Don. His top nutrition priority is consuming his protein each day.
Also, in tried and true "old school" fashion, Don believes in bulking-up in the off-season. "Typically, my weight will climb to 290," he says. "This year I plan to push that to 300 pounds."
Art Atwood was an IFBB pro who weighed in come contest time, at around 275 pounds, give or take a few diuretics. Which means he was well over 300 pounds in the offseason.
Art died of a massive heart attack in 2011. He was 37 years old. His autopsy showed that he had actually suffered a minor heart attack a month before, unknowingly.
Curtis Leffler was a top level amateur bodybuilder who also competed in strongman. Curtis was 270+ pounds in contest condition and had veins on veins. He was also a constant shade of purple and was often dubbed "Barney" because of it.
He died of a massive heart attack at the age of 36 while preparing for a show. His favorite quote apparently was "life is too short to be small." How ironic.
Matt Duvall was an IFBB pro bodybuilder. Died of a heart attack at 40.
Greg Kovacs was a pro bodybuilder we often weighed in excess of 400 pounds in the offseason, and died of a heart attack at 44.
I could go on and on, but I hope you're getting the point.
The counterpoints I've already read. And to be honest, they make me laugh.
People will lie to themselves and other people in order to justify their stance or rationalize their beliefs. Some may say "look at the number of deaths in relation to how many bodybuilders there were."
This might be true. However I don't know of any other sport outside of say, professional wrestling, where guys are dropping of heart attacks in their 30's and 40's like this. Not only that, but the number of deaths related to these same issues are probably unknown. We tend to only hear about it when it was a well known bodybuilder. I have no idea how many amateur competitors have died because of similar reasons.
"But those guys were all over 300 pounds."
True. But there are lots of obese people walking (riding in carts?) around in their 50's and even 60's. Heart conditions? Maybe....probably. But I don't see people who are JUST obese dropping all over in their 30's and 40's either.
PED use is common in just about every sport. In fact, in cycling PED abuse might be just as bad as bodybuilding. But those guys are 150 pounds. They aren't trying to push the limits in regards to muscle mass that bodybuilders, powerlifters, and strongmen are.
Recreational drugs? Sure. Some of these guys obviously did that too. However lots of pro bodybuilders don't do the party lifestyle thing that suffer the same consequences and heart complications.
One of my favorite principles to apply to a situation is Ocaam's razor. That is, the simplest answer is most often the correct one. And the simplest answer here is, guys abusing PED's and pushing their body to extreme limits has consequences like you know, heart failure.
I'm not sure why this gets debated so heavily. It's not a stretch. I'm not breaking my arm reaching here. Abuse of any kind will have negatives that come with it. Alcohol, drugs, sex, adrenaline, etc. Pushing the boundaries on anything can and usually does have severe repercussions. Why people want to lie to themselves is beyond me. If you abuse steroids, growth hormone, insulin, so forth and so on, then you're probably going to pay for that at some point. With your health, and possibly your life.
I'm not writing this in a judgmental way at all. I want to be clear on that. If you want to abuse anabolics and do so because your goal is to be the best bodybuilder in the world, then by all means, it is your life you are playing with. Not anyone else's. Do what you want. You're the one that will be held responsible for it.
But being willfully ignorant about it baffles me. And from a personal perspective, I don't get it.
Being driven to be the best at something, I get. But carving off years of my life to be the best at something, especially something as inconsequential as lifting weights or building my physique, I don't get. From a personal perspective, I don't have that mentality about those hobbies. And if that means I'm sub-par because I won't delve into abuse, then so be it. Because being better at powerlifting isn't worth it. I want to grow old, and see my daughters get married to good men. I want to spoil my grandchildren and sit my wrinkled ass on my front porch and be as crotchety as I please because I'm old, and cantankerous, and that god damn loud music I used to love so much drives me crazy now. God damn rebellious teenagers!
I have no desire to be strapped to a dialysis machine when I'm 45. I have no desire to see if I can get a heart transplant in order to keep living when I'm only 49 years old like Mike did.
I understand the desire to win. I just don't understand the desire to win "at all costs". Because "at all costs" could mean your life. As I've written before, it's hard to kick ass from your grave. I personally think that kicking ass means surviving for as long as possible. Not burning the candle from both ends and succumbing to an early grave so I could have some extra trophies in my office. In searching my soul I find nothing fulfilling in that. If someone else does, then that is their life. And they can do with it as they please. I just desire a different path, want a different journey, and desire a different destination.
My guess is, if Mike could do it all over again, he would have made different choices. In fact, I think he says as much.....
I couldn't agree more.