Despite his family history of coronary artery disease, and his medical knowledge about heart disease, Dr. Akil Taher of Gadsden in Alabama, spent most of his life eating unhealthy food and hardly getting any exercise. When he was 56, coronary artery disease knocked on his door.
Dr. Taher was visiting London when he started to experience exertional chest pain. When he came back to the United States, he visited his cardiologist who performed cardiac catheterization and determined that he had significant blockages in two of the three main arteries of the heart. He was given the choice between open heart bypass surgery or coronary artery stenting, and he chose the latter which is less invasive. During the cardiac catheterization stenting, he suffered a cardiac arrest and was revived and recovered well. A few years later, the stents failed and he had to undergo an open heart coronary bypass surgery. As he was being taken to the operating room, he told the medical team that he will run half a Marathon within a year.
Akil did well on his promise. Eight months after his surgery, he ran his first half Marathon in Nashville. He then ran full Marathons in Chicago, Boston and Mumbai, and raised $23,000 for charitable causes. He also ran two triathlons. He also started climbing mountains and he climbed to the peak of Mount Kilimanjaro, the highest mountain in the world. In addition, Akil bungee jumped in New Zealand and jumped out of an airplane.
Akil is now 72, and continues to seek adventures and thrills. He says his next adventure will be swimming with sharks. He enjoys simple pleasures such as gardening, cooking and spending time with his wife and two adult children. Akil now regularly speaks about heart healthy lifestyle and wrote a book that chronicles his amazing journey and transformation from a couch potato to a marathoner and mountain climber.