It’s been 30 years since Larry King suffered a heart attack in Washington, D.C.’s George Washington University Hospital. Despite leading a wildly unhealthy lifestyle, littered with cigarettes and fried foods, he was confounded by the experience.

“I shouldn’t have been surprised, since I had been a heavy smoker for many years,” King explains. “At first I thought it was something else because the pain was on my right side — the right shoulder, but as soon as I took tests at the hospital, they confirmed I had just experienced a heart attack.”

High blood pressure, smoking and high cholesterol are key risk factors for heart disease. About half of Americans, 49 percent, have at least one of these three risk factors. King's father died of cardiac arrest at 46, when King was only 9.

KING OF HEARTS: It wasn't until after his heart attack and quintuple heart surgery, did King realize the importance of advocating for himself and his body. Photo: JSquared Photography

A fresh perspective

After the heart attack and, months later, a quintuple bypass surgery, the newsroom giant knew he had to change his habits.

“For a short time after the surgery, 10 months after the heart attack, I felt so good,” he recalls. “I had more energy than ever; no pain. I never smoked again.” He continues, “I had a new desire to live; much more awareness of my heart and overall physical well-being.”

According to the Center for Disease Control and Prevention, someone in the United States has a heart attack every 42 seconds. America’s great interviewer has since written two books on the subject: “Mr. King, You’re Having a Heart Attack” and “Taking on Heart Disease.”

Giving back

Today, King prioritizes exercise and healthy meals despite a hectic itinerary of interviews and work for his Larry King Cardiac Foundation, which provides financial assistance for patients who can’t afford heart procedures. His advice for patients who may be facing a recent heart health diagnosis?

“You know what to do,” he explains. “If you think what you are doing is wrong, you’re right. Pay attention to pain — don’t dismiss it. Get checkups regularly. You only go around once.”