Over a decade after undergoing triple bypass surgery in 2007, former "Live With Regis and Kelly" host Regis Philbin is opening up about his heart health journey.
From the moment her first experienced chest pain back in 1992 while working with Kathie Lee Gifford to his current relaxed life after retirement, Philbin has had to make adjustments to his lifestyle that have allowed him to remain healthy throughout the last several decades.
In honor of February being Heart Health Month, AOL Entertainment caught up with Philbin over e-mail to further understand his years-long journey to heart health, his new initiative to help encourage others to learn from his experience and how he's been spending his days since leaving "Live" 11 years ago.
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Read our full conversation with Regis Philbin below:
You first experienced chest pains while on a work trip in 1992 with co-host Kathie Lee Gifford. Can you describe that experience for us? Did it prompt any sort of realization about your health?
That’s right. Nearly three decades ago I was down in Miami shooting a commercial on a cruise ship with Kathie Lee and started experiencing chest pains. I was rushed to the hospital where I was shocked to learn I had a blocked artery and would need an angioplasty right away. Then in 2007, a stress test revealed the angioplasty was no longer having a desired effect and I had to have triple bypass surgery. I called my good friend David Letterman who put me in touch with the surgeons who did his surgery, which was relieving, but still pretty scary. The experience made me realize I needed to take my heart health seriously.
How has that moment impacted your life since?
I see my doctor a lot more often. Good thing I like the guy! After my heart health scare, I immediately saw my doctor who put me on a statin to manage my high cholesterol levels. I’ve also made sure to speak up when something wasn’t feeling right; after a while, I started experiencing muscle aches and fatigue from my first statin regimen, so my doctor switched me to another statin that was a better fit for me. I’m glad I had that conversation with my doctor.
What sorts of things have you learned since focusing on your heart health?
Given my own experience with heart disease, I was shocked to learn that at least 50 percent of people who start a statin quit taking it within the first year. This was a great surprise to me as statins have helped me to enjoy life without the worry of having high cholesterol. I urge everyone to talk to their doctor before they stop their statin and find the one that’s right for them. It has really made all the difference for me.
Surely you've made changes to your overall daily routine to help maintain your heart health. Talk us through some of those changes.
Before my heart health scare, I wasn’t very disciplined when it came to my diet. Now, I still enjoy the foods I’ve always loved but in moderation. I mostly stick to chicken and vegetables for weekly dinners and work out at a gym a few days a week to help my strength and muscle tone. My cardio could use some work, so I’ve been trying to add more exercises to my routine to get my heart rate up a few times a week.
How are you encouraging the public to take control of their heart health? Why did you want to speak out through Take Cholesterol to Heart?
By joining the Take Cholesterol to Heart campaign, I hope to encourage people learn more about statins and share tips on having the statin conversation with their doctor. I joined the campaign because getting my heart health back on track has made all the difference in my life, and I truly hope others will join me in doing the same. The Take Cholesterol To Heart website has some great tips on talking to your doctor, and you can also learn more about my own heart health journey.
Speaking up about health issues takes courage! How do you see this fitting into your overall legacy?
I’ve made a career out of speaking candidly to the public, and that includes sharing my heart disease experience and major heart surgeries. A long career and the gift of time with my family and friends have been possible because I speak with my doctor regularly and stay on the right statin for me. I hope by sharing my own heart health experience, others will be encouraged to speak up to their doctor to find the statin that works best for them. In addition to my career accomplishments and incredible experiences along the way, I’m proud to include this campaign as part of my legacy.
You've enjoyed a more relaxed work schedule since leaving "Live" nearly seven years ago. How do you spend your time on your off days? Have you taken up any hobbies?
I had a great run with “Live” and was fortunate to retire on a high note with a lot of support from the show and from fans. While there are days I do miss working, it’s been a nice change of pace to focus more on relaxing and spending time with my wife Joy and our kids and grandkids. I also continue to stay physically and mentally active by playing tennis and keeping up with the stock market.
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