Actor Dennis Haysbert, trim and 6 feet 4, with a quietly powerful demeanor and a voice that brings to mind a cross between Barry White and Isaac Hayes, is a powerhouse that’s just plain hard to miss – on-screen and off.
What is surprising is that, growing up, the odds were very much against Dennis Haysbert even staying alive, much less achieving stardom.
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The popular actor as been working for 25 years as an actor, with roles on television and in movies such as Far From Heaven, Jarhead, Absolute Power, and the hit TV drama “24.” But long before all of this, Dennis was born with a hole in his heart, a defect, he says, that caused the entire family to baby and protect him for many years.
“I was never coddled,” Dennis says, “but always protected. [My family has said] that when I’d come into the room as a child, it would go silent because people could actually hear my heart working.”
Holes in the heart are simple congenital heart defects. Congenital heart defects are problems with the heart’s structure that are present at birth. These defects change the normal flow of blood through the heart.
The heart has two sides, separated by an inner wall called the septum. With each heartbeat, the right side of the heart receives oxygen-poor blood from the body and pumps it to the lungs. The left side of the heart receives oxygen-rich blood from the lungs and pumps it to the body.
The septum prevents mixing of blood between the two sides of the heart. However, some babies are born with holes in the upper or lower septum.
Haysbert’s heart healed by itself and, looking at the fit 59-year-old actor, it’s hard to imagine him as anything other than a natural athlete. He received several athletic scholarships upon high school graduation, but decided to go into performing arts.
Dennis continues to be vigilant about staying healthy, and keeps his body fit, particularly his abs, chest and arms, by continually playing sports. Keeping his heart strong and healthy is also a top priority for the actor. He watches his diet to make sure he’s able to keep up with demanding acting roles that require him to be more physical.
In his spare time, Haysbert plays golf whenever he can.
“No one gets to play as much as they’d like unless you’re a pro,” he says. He also enjoys tennis and scuba diving.