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How Regis Philbin Is Advocating For America's Heart

In 1992, TV personality and actor Regis Philbin was 61 years old and shooting a commercial on a cruise ship in Miami with Kathie Lee Gifford when he started experiencing chest pains. He was rushed to the hospital, where he learned he had a blocked artery and would need an angioplasty right away. “I was shocked to say the least,” he says.

Fast-forward to 2007 when a stress test revealed the angioplasty was no longer having its desired effect. Philbin learned he would need triple bypass surgery. David Letterman, a good friend of Philbin’s, put him in touch with the surgeons who performed his bypass surgery just a few years earlier.

“Before my angioplasty and triple bypass surgeries, I wasn’t very disciplined when it came to my diet,” he says. “If I knew then what I know today, I probably wouldn’t have eaten as many cheeseburgers and oatmeal raisin cookies and would have considered exercise as a daily part of my routine, not just an obligation that I felt forced to do.”

Now Philbin sticks to a heart-healthy diet, exercises regularly and takes statin medication daily to manage high cholesterol levels.

“I’ve also learned more about the risk factors for heart disease and how important it is to be your own best heart-health advocate,” he says. “Now, I make sure to schedule regular check-ups with my doctor, and I know that I need to speak up when something doesn’t feel quite right.”

Philbin has also joined the Take Cholesterol to Heart campaign to help people learn more about statins and share tips on having the statin conversation with their doctors so they can speak up before they stop their statin medications.

How did your diet and lifestyle change after your triple bypass surgery?

My diet is now mostly chicken and vegetables for weekly dinners. I try to work out at a gym a few days a week to help my strength and muscle tone. Lately, I’ve also been trying to increase my cardio work with more exercises to get my heart rate up a few times a week, like a game of tennis or a walk with my wife, Joy.

How was your career affected?

I was always very candid about what was happening in my life during my time on “Live!,” and my heart disease and surgeries were no exception. I wanted the audience to realize the importance of speaking up about their own heart health with their doctor.

I’ve also used my platform to help educate the audience about statins, which have helped me to manage my own high cholesterol. I was shocked to learn that at least half of the people who start a statin stop taking it within the first year and often aren’t told by their doctor that there are multiple statin options available. I want others to know that just because you might have challenges with one statin, it doesn’t mean another won’t be right for you.

Who has been part of your support system?

Joy, my wife. Before my first heart scare in 1992, neither of us gave cholesterol much thought, but that event was a wake-up call. Since then, Joy has taken the time to learn about the risk factors of heart disease, and she makes sure that I communicate with my doctor regularly. She also makes sure I stick to my heart-healthy diet and that I keep up with my weekly exercise routine.

What is your best advice for those facing similar complications?

I think whether it’s changing your diet and exercise routine or choosing a different statin, you should be your own best heart-health advocate. Schedule regular check-ups with your doctor and educate yourself on treatment options that may work well for you.