When Larry came to CNN in 1987 to host his show, Larry King Live, he says he was smoking, overweight and sedentary. At the same time, he says he was surprised when he suffered a heart attack later that year. After undergoing quintuple bypass surgery, Larry says he got serious about his health. "I was a good patient—I never smoked again, I started exercising, I changed my diet and I changed my outlook on health and life," he says.
During Larry's recovery, a friend asked him how much his operation and treatment at the hospital had cost. Because his insurance had picked up the bills, Larry says he didn't know, and he started investigating the cost of cardiac treatments. He was shocked to realize that most uninsured Americans could never afford the kind of care he received.
In 1988, Larry established The Larry King Cardiac Foundation, a nonprofit organization that Larry finances through speaking engagements and book sales. The foundation matches doctors willing to perform surgeries free-of-charge with heart patients who otherwise could not afford lifesaving procedures. The foundation pays hospitals for the materials used, Larry says. "We've helped a lot of people save a lot of lives," he says.
While Larry says he would never wish a heart attack on anyone, in his case, it saved his life and the lives of many others. "If I didn't have heart attack, I'd be dead today," he says. "Because I wouldn't have quit smoking, the heart attack saved my life."