A fixture on American television for decades, Regis Philbin holds the Guinness World Record for Most Hours on U.S. Television — 16,746.5 and counting. The legendary talk show host first learned he had heart disease nearly 30 years ago, and he credits regular exercise and a statin drug for sustained good health. For personal reasons, he and his wife, Joy, are championing the health campaign Take Cholesterol to Heart, launched by the American Academy of Family Physicians Foundation and Kowa Pharmaceuticals America. Post Executive Editor Patrick Perry recently interviewed the duo about the vital importance of controlling cholesterol.
The Saturday Evening Post: How did you first discover you had heart disease?
Regis Philbin: It all started in 1992 — I was in pretty good shape until then — when I was in Florida doing a commercial for a cruise line. Kathie Lee Gifford was on deck rehearsing when I said, “I’m having chest pain.” We went to a hospital in Miami, and I had an angioplasty to open clogged arteries.
Joy Philbin: We had no idea that his cholesterol had shot up dangerously high. His doctor put him on a statin, and he’s been on one ever since.
SEP: After the angioplasty, what steps did you take to guard against future issues?
Regis: I’ve always liked to exercise, and I’ve kept that up. But I had never been on medicine. Taking a statin has now been part of my lifestyle for the past 25 years.
Joy: Fortunately, we live right next door to a gym, and we go three or four times a week. We still play tennis, just not together because we can’t get along! It’s important to keep in shape. That’s why he looks and feels good.
SEP: What do you want Post readers to know about taking a statin?
Joy: It concerns us that 50 percent of people who start a statin stop taking it within one year. Regis had some muscle aches and hip pain after a few months — a side effect of the statin — but we didn’t see any reason to stop taking it because I thought his life depended on it.
SEP: Were you at first a little confused and concerned about the muscle pain?
Joy: You (to Regis) mentioned it during a regular checkup, saying, “I’m having a lot of aches and pain in my hip and when I walk.” The doctor suggested switching to another statin, and it has been very successful. I had no idea there were so many different ones.
SEP: Why are you stepping forward to share your story and champion the Take Cholesterol to Heart campaign?
Regis: The statin keeps me going, and I’m glad I’ve been on one all these years. I wouldn’t know what to do without it.
Joy: Knowing that he is on a statin gives me peace of mind because I know that we’re controlling his cholesterol. His personal story and tips about managing cholesterol are on the takecholesteroltoheart.com website. We hope to convince people to check out the information, especially if they are considering starting or stopping a statin.
SEP: Are you often asked to repeat Who Wants to Be a Millionaire catchphrase, “Is that your final answer?”
Regis: They ask me all the time. Every now and then I say it to myself!
This article is featured in the January/February 2018 issue of The Saturday Evening Post. Subscribe to the magazine for more art, inspiring stories, fiction, humor, and features from our archives.