Choosing beef without visible fat, trimming fat that you do see, and draining fat from the pan before serving can also help reduce the amount of fat when eating or cooking steak. So it’s possible that Mr. Big was enjoying steak as responsibly as he could, at least some of the time. Plus, early on in the episode, he and Carrie have a little repartee about the type of salmon she’d bought for dinner. It’s a notably omega-3-rich pick that the nutrition and medical fields widely consider anti-inflammatory and protective for the heart, and it was clear based on the conversation that this wasn’t their first time enjoying it together.
Alcohol is another tricky subject when it comes to heart health. Some studies suggest moderate alcohol use (two drinks or fewer per day for men, one drink or fewer per day for women) may actually be associated with lower heart disease risk, according to Johns Hopkins Medicine. Many potentially positive findings in this arena center on red wine specifically, which Mr. Big (who at one point in the show owned a vineyard in Napa) has been known to enjoy. But the relationship isn’t necessarily causal—for instance, as Johns Hopkins Medicine points out, it’s possible that people who regularly drink red wine may have higher incomes overall, which is tied to increased access to healthy foods. While the jury’s still out in that realm, it is clear that heavy drinking (more than 15 drinks a week for men and more than 8 drinks a week for women, per the CDC) can lead to high blood pressure, heart failure, and stroke.
Mr. Big’s weekly cigar habit has even fewer redeeming qualities. According to the CDC, smoking causes 25% of cardiovascular disease deaths. It can raise triglycerides (a type of fat) in your blood, lower your body’s “good” (HDL) cholesterol, make your blood more likely to clot and block blood flow to your heart and brain, damage cells lining the blood vessels, increase plaque buildup in blood vessels, and cause your blood vessels to thicken and narrow. And unfortunately, smoking harms more than the person doing it. Secondhand smoke is responsible for nearly 34,000 early deaths from coronary heart disease in the U.S. every year in nonsmokers.
OK, OK, so what about the big question: Could Mr. Big’s high-intensity Peloton ride really have killed him? Maybe—but probably not. First, consistent physical activity is definitely great for your heart. The general healthy-living guidelines for adults include getting about two hours and 30 minutes every week of moderate-intensity exercise, like going for a speedy walk or—yes!—cycling, per the CDC. Ryan Reynolds, of all people, made this point in a frankly wild ad Peloton posted to Twitter on December 12 when the internet was still reeling from Mr. Big’s death. The video shows Mr. Big looking quite alive and well in front of a romantic crackling fireplace with none other than Allegra, the Peloton instructor from that fateful ride. In the video, produced by Reynolds’s Maximum Effort agency, Reynolds says, “And just like that, the world was reminded that regular cycling stimulates and improves your heart, lungs, and circulation, regular cycling, reducing your risk of cardiovascular diseases.”
Honestly, he’s not wrong. As SELF has previously reported, improved cardiovascular health is one of the core benefits you can get from a regular cycling habit. But what about high-intensity exercise specifically in people with a history of heart disease? The answer there is a little murkier. In a 2020 scientific statement by the American Heart Association (AHA) published in the journal Circulation, experts evaluated 300 studies that measured the effects of vigorous-to-high intensity exercise. Their findings suggest that although physical activity is good for heart health overall, suddenly engaging in vigorous and high-intensity exercise may increase the relative risk of cardiovascular events in people who have heart disease—especially if those people are typically sedentary. But Mr. Big had been cleared by his doctor to take on such a regimen, and his heart attack happened after his 1,000th ride—so clearly hopping on the bike was a well-worn habit for him by that time. (Also, Carrie joked that he had a love affair with his Peloton trainer, which makes Peloton’s follow-up Twitter video particularly on the nose.)
The…big…takeaway is that, like many of us, it seems Mr. Big’s life involved a range of activities on the “healthy” spectrum. And that while Peloton may have appeared to be the culprit of his apparent death, any type of exercise—cycling or otherwise—is overall a great activity for heart health, especially when ramped up over time (and in consultation with a doctor when needed). After his many years of romantic hijinks, none of us should be surprised if Mr. Big actually faked his death to abscond with his Peloton instructor, yet again leaving Carrie to pick up the pieces on her own.