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Hidden Epidemic: Heart Disease in America
Take One Step: A PBS Health Campaign
Hidden Epidemic: Heart Disease in America + Take One Step for a Healthy Heart with Larry King  

Watching: Take One Step for a Healthy Heart with Larry King

Chapter 1 - Why Don't We Pay Attention [4:32]

Larry King talks about his own experience with heart disease, introduces the panel, and discusses risk factors

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Transcript: Chapter 1 - Why Don't We Pay Attention

Larry King talks about his own experience with heart disease, introduces the panel, and discusses risk factors

LARRY KING: Good evening. I'm Larry King and welcome to Take One Step for a Healthy Heart. I'm here tonight because I'm very, very involved in this topic. In 1987, February of 1987, I had a heart attack. Before that I had not done very much about health in my life. I smoked. I didn't watch what I eat or had eaten. I didn't exercise. The heart attack shocked me, shocked my family, but there I was. And I had to change.

I took immediate steps: stopped smoking the day of the heart attack. Some months later, I wound up having bypass surgery, and that really changed everything in my life. Because when you go into a hospital and they tell you they're going to cut your chest open, you really think about all the dumb things you've done in your life and you have to change.

I formed the Larry King Cardiac Foundation. That helps people who can't afford it to get heart procedures of all kinds, people who fall between the cracks.

Heart disease is the number one killer in America for both men and women. Just about everybody is at risk. But the good news is that heart disease is mostly preventable. Tonight I'm joined by a panel of experts who are here to offer you some practical advice and the most up-to-date information on how you can reduce your risk of heart disease.

Here to provide us with some lifesaving tips are, Dr. Marianne Legato, who founded the Partnership for Gender-Specific Medicine at Columbia University and is author of The Female Heart: the Truth about Women and Heart Disease.

Dr. Steve Nissen is Chairman of the Department of Cardiovascular Medicine at the Cleveland Clinic Foundation and President of the American College of Cardiology.

Dr. Paula Johnson is a cardiologist and Executive Director of the Connors Center for Women's Health and Gender Biology at the Brigham and Women's Hospital and Harvard Medical School in Massachusetts.

Dr. Michael Roizen is the best-selling author with a new book out called You on a Diet: the Owner's Manual for Waist Management. He's also a contributor to Reader's Digest Magazine.

And Sallie Foley, certified sex therapist and author of Modern Love: a No-Nonsense Guide to a Life of Passion.

Dr. Johnson, we'll start with you. Why don't we pay attention?

DR. PAULA JOHNSON: Well, you know, I think that there's a lot of feeling that we're going to die from something and that death from heart disease is inevitable. And I think we really have not gotten the message out that we can really work to prevent it, and even if you have it, we can really work to make your life much better and prevent what people view as a premature inevitability.

LARRY KING: Dr. Legato, the most significant risk factors?

DR. MARIANNE LEGATO: The most important one that I can think of is diabetes. Has a different impact for men and women. Diabetes doubles the risk for men of having coronary disease but it's a four- to six-fold increase for women. So I think that's probably the most important illness, in any case, that is a risk factor.

LARRY KING: Without being too technical, do we know why diabetes affects the heart?

DR. MARIANNE LEGATO: No. And Elizabeth Barrett-Connor, one of the great investigators in this field, said if we only knew that we'd know a lot more. I think it has to do with the low levels of good cholesterol that diabetics have, low HDL levels.

DR. STEVEN NISSEN: Well I think cholesterol plays a key role here. And it's important that people have a more sophisticated understanding. High levels of LDL cholesterol, the bad cholesterol, are associated with heart disease. But low levels of HDL, the good cholesterol, are also associated with heart disease.

LARRY KING: So?

DR. STEVEN NISSEN: We've been able to treat LDL. It's harder to raise the good cholesterol, HDL, but we're working on it.

LARRY KING: Why, Dr. Roizen, don't people pay attention?

DR. MICHAEL ROIZEN: I don't know. I say the most important number you know other than your spouse's birthday is your blood pressure. And we know the ideal blood pressure for preventing heart disease, stroke, memory loss, all of them, but especially heart disease, is 115/75. And we now know how to get it there in virtually everyone. There is no reason anyone should have a blood pressure other than that, and they ought to know what it is when they're doing their job as well, because that's the period they spend a lot of time at.

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