The NFL’s Damar Hamlin Says This One Thing ‘Made a Big Difference’ To His Heart Recovery

Updated: May 16, 2024

As the 2024-25 NFL season schedule is released, beloved Buffalo Bills star Damar Hamlin reflects on the milestones that have helped heal his heart.

Having turned 26 this past March, football player Damar Hamlin still has his career ahead of him—but already, his legacy is one of resilience and strength.

After suffering cardiac arrest during a January 2023 game against the Cincinnati Bengals, Buffalo Bills safety Hamlin was hospitalized in critical condition. He spent months in recovery, preparing to return to football between visiting President Joe Biden and penning a letter for Reader’s Digest’s Nicest Places issue to spread awareness about the importance of heart health. Hamlin is now also a loyal collaborator with the American Heart Association, most recently promoting free hands-only CPR training.
Hamlin also recently partnered with Abbott, a medical devices company, to “captain” its HeartMates program. A representative for Abbott says the partnership “recognizes people who have comeback from serious cardiovascular conditions” and aims to serve as a community for people with heart conditions.
In an exclusive conversation with The Healthy by Reader’s Digest, Hamlin shared his source of motivation to recover and what he hopes his future holds.

The Healthy: Damar, our team at Reader’s Digest adored the chance to mention your story last fall in our Nicest Places issue of the magazine. You mentioned how sharing stories and being surrounded by community can provide strength in recovery. So many heart patients can probably relate to that.

Damar Hamlin: Having a community around you when you are going through something like a cardiovascular event is critical. It’s what helped me in my recovery and why I’m partnering with Abbott on the HeartMates program to make sure everyone has that supportive community there for them so they know they are not alone when they’re going through these situations. For me, having a support system around me is what made a big difference. I had the love and support from my family, especially my parents. I’m also grateful to my team members who helped lift me up and get back to where I am today.

Damar Hamlin playing football for the Buffalo BillsRyan Kang/getty images

The Healthy: You’ve also mentioned your faith, which is powerful both when we’re up and when we’re down in life. How has that helped you?

Damar Hamlin: I lean on my faith with everything I do, with everything that happens in my life. Being deeply rooted in my faith allows me to have a foundation and direction in my life. I can weather any storm through my Lord and Savior.

The Healthy: What’s one topic in life you look at differently today than you did a couple years ago?

Damar Hamlin: I’ve always known how important it is to have a team around you, but now more than ever I understand the importance a team can play both on and off the field. Having that community that is there for you through the highs and the lows is really a special thing.

I started playing football when I was five, so I know the importance of a team, but when you need people there for you when things are dark, that’s when you really see the importance of having that support. I know firsthand the importance of having a strong team behind you. That’s why the Abbott HeartMates team is such a powerful tool to help people make strong comebacks.

The Healthy: You’re still in your twenties. What do you hope your future holds?

Damar Hamlin: I don’t know what my future holds, but what I can say is that I pray for health and wellness upon my loved ones and I know that I will continue to pursue all of my passions and continue to show how well diversified and in-depth of an individual that I am. I have a lot of plans and tricks up my sleeve. Right now I’m just focused on living everyday as the best version of myself and trying to impact as many people as possible while I’m at it. A few things that are getting all my energy right now are my family, my career, continuing to build a legacy, my foundations and using my platform for heart health advocacy work with the Abbott HeartMates team.

Damar Hamlin Lights the Empire State Building in Honor of American Heart Association Wear Red DayRoy Rochlin/getty images
Damar Hamlin Lights the Empire State Building in Honor of American Heart Association Wear Red Day in February 2024

The Healthy: What do you want to be remembered for one day?

Damar Hamlin: I want to leave a legacy of perseverance behind. Never allowing my situation or any odds to define me and always putting the work in to accomplish what I want in life. I want to be looked at as an example of positivity for the youth behind me. Showing them what to do and what not to do. A true neighborhood hero.

The Healthy: What’s one self-care routine you refuse to skip?

Damar Hamlin: Honestly, self-care is everything for me. It’s not one thing specifically, but a culmination of things. My new favorite has been yoga and Pilates. I refuse to skip a day!