If you are an avid follower of heart disease news like me, there’s no way you missed these headlines: 

Apparent heart attack at Heart Attack Grill
At Heart Attack Grill, diner’s symptom’s weren’t fake

Apparently this restaurant in Las Vegas has made a theme out of unhealthy living. People who weigh over 350 pounds eat free. The doors have warnings on them, similar to cigarette packages. The Quadruple Bypass Burger weighs in at 8,000 calories. The waitresses dress as nurses and the cooks wear scrubs. Customers are called “patients” who are served “prescriptions” such as Flatline Fries. The restaurant’s tagline: “Taste worth dying for.” Their 575- pound spokesperson, age 29, did.

Heart disease as theme park. That’s hilarious.

I had no idea such a place existed. And while I get the concept — everything must be over-the-top in Vegas, people are going to eat terribly anyway, it’s just a joke — I just don’t see how this is in any way funny. Is there another disease that could be treated in the same way? Diabetes? Cancer? Alzheimer’s? AIDS? These photos on HappyPlace.com make it pretty clear that wouldn’t happen.

So why is heart disease a joke? I’ve said the following myself, you know, before:

  • “Heart attack on a plate” when cooking or about to eat something high-fat and high-calorie.
  • Don’t wanna drop dead of a heart attack” when lamenting that I really shouldn’t be eating the high-fat, high-calorie thing I’m eating.
  • “You almost gave me a heart attack!” when startled.

(I said the latter once post-heart attack purely by accident; you should have seen the look on my son’s face. I won’t make that mistake again.)

I don’t think there are any similar phrases or figures of speech about diabetes or cancer or AIDS. Do people look at a piece of chocolate cake and joke “diabetes on a plate” before gleefully tucking in? I don’t think so.

So why do we feel comfortable joking about heart disease? Why do people go to the Heart Attack Grill and tell themselves “it’s fun to indulge once in a while”? Like the class clown who uses humor to protect himself, does our breezy attitude about heart disease keep us safe from it? A joke a day keeps the heart attack away?

I wish.

The truth is heart disease kills more Americans than any other disease. It kills more women than the next four causes of death combined, including all forms of cancer. It often strikes silently and without warning; for many, the first symptom they have of heart disease is death.

Once you have it you have it for life. You are never cured. You must make major and permanent life changes. Some people’s hearts are so injured it affects their quality of life. A person who has had a heart attack is 20-30% more likely to have another one. Heart disease is no joke.

I think what might be making me so angry about this story — aside from making fun of something that could have taken me away from my boys — is that 80 percent of cardiac events are actually preventable by making healthy choices. Don’t smoke, maintain a healthy weight, keep your blood pressure in line, exercise. When something like the Heart Attack Grill comes along and makes a mockery out of heart disease, it seems very hard to get that message through.

So listen up. You can eat your way into heart disease. Don’t.


  1. I agree, Jen. This whole Heart Attack Grill concept is, in my humble opinion, completely obscene! If you weigh over 350 pounds, you can eat FREE at the Heart Attack Grill. Really? Seriously? I wrote about this a couple years ago at: http://ethicalnag.org/2010/06/29/heart-attack-grill/

  2. Thanks for sharing your article Carolyn. I really can’t shake how mad I am about this!