About 610,000 Americans die from heart disease each year — that’s 1 of every 4 deaths. I sat down with the iconic television and radio host to talk about the day his heart stopped, and how his life and career changed after being diagnosed with heart disease.
It’s been 30 years since Larry King suffered a heart attack in Washington, D.C.’s George Washington University Hospital. And even though he smoked three packs of cigarettes a day and had an unhealthy diet filled with greasy food, King was still shocked by the event.
“I shouldn’t have been surprised, since I had been a heavy smoker for many years,” he 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. And heart disease runs in the family — King’s father died of cardiac arrest at 46, when King was only 9.
A fresh perspective
After the heart attack and, months later, a quintuple bypass surgery, the newsroom giant knew he had to change his lifestyle.
“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. I had a new desire to live, and 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.”
Today King makes time for exercise and healthy meals despite his hectic work schedule, including his advocacy efforts with the 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. If you think what you are doing is wrong, you’re right. Pay attention to pain, don’t dismiss it. And get checkups regularly. You only go around once.”