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CNN LARRY KING LIVE
Interview with Laura Bush; Panel Discussion on Heart Disease
Aired March 24, 2006 - 21:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
LARRY KING, HOST: Tonight, Laura Bush, an exclusive interview from the White House on her mission to save America's women from their number-one killed, heart disease. Laura Bush, one on one, is next on LARRY KING LIVE.
Tonight, here in Washington at the Ritz Carlton Hotel, the Larry King Cardiac Foundation will celebrate another one of its dinners with gala entertainment, in which the funds go to help people who can't afford it to get various types of heart treatment.
And in that connection, we have invited -- and she has accepted -- the first lady of the United States, Laura Bush, to kick off the show tonight, which later we'll deal in-depth with heart disease with a panel, to talk about -- what got you interested in it?
LAURA BUSH, FIRST LADY OF THE UNITED STATES: Well, the National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute, which is part of the NIH, the National Institutes of Health, called to see if I'd be interested in being a part of the Red Dress Project.
And I didn't know when they called that heart disease was the number-one cause of death among American women. I just had assumed, like everyone else, that cancer was.
KING: Breast cancer.
L. BUSH: And I was really surprised, because I read everything. I read the health sections of newspapers. And so I knew that, if I didn't know that, that probably most American women didn't know that.
We all thought of heart disease as a man's disease, and we would rush our husband or boyfriend to the hospital. But when women start to suffer the symptoms of a heart attack, they think it's anxiety, or indigestion, or whatever, and so they're slower to go to the hospital, which means they've usually suffered more damage.
KING: And often the doctor is quicker to dismiss them.
L. BUSH: Didn't even know, that's right. That goes to show how few people really realize that heart disease was also a woman's disease. Even doctors would send them home when they came with specific symptoms, not always the symptoms that men have.
KING: Yes, they are different.
L. BUSH: Women might have an ache in the jaw, or a shoulder pain, and not always the crushing chest pain that men think of. One of the main symptoms is extreme fatigue. And, of course, I think women -- a lot of us -- think we're tired a lot of the time, so we probably dismiss a symptom like that.
KING: In fact, the term "heart attack" is a male term. If I tell you someone's had a heart attack, you expect it to be a man.
L. BUSH: You immediately picture a man. You do, absolutely.
KING: So what have you been doing?
L. BUSH: Well, so I've gone around the country with the Heart Truth Campaign. I've visited with heart attack patients around the country in a lot of different hospitals.
I've talked on television about the symptoms, just to get the word out to women to go to their doctors or go to the emergency room as soon as they would send their husband, if they have any sort of symptom.
And I really have -- I've heard from other people, I've heard from people who've heard me on television, and that night have realized that what they are having is a heart attack and have gone to the hospital.
KING: And the red dress has become the symbol, right?
L. BUSH: The red dress is the symbol of the Heart Truth Campaign. The other really good news, though, is that heart disease can be prevented. And if people will change their lifestyles, they can really protect their heart health.
And it's especially important, I think, for women as mothers and role models to change their lifestyles for their children. Obesity is a symptom of a risk of heart disease. Smoking, obviously, is one of the main risks for heart disease, high blood pressure, diabetes, all of those things.
So you should go to your doctor; get your blood pressure taken; make sure you have a diabetes check; find out what your cholesterol is; and then try to have a heart-healthy diet.
And everyone knows now what that is. It's written in all of the food sections of the newspapers. The government, the new dietary guidelines have a great new book out that you can order or download from your computer to get what the real dietary guidelines are, and we all know what it is.
KING: We also know now that it's possibly reversible.
L. BUSH: That's right; it really can be, if you change...
KING: You can change your lifestyle.
L. BUSH: ... change your lifestyle. If you treat high-blood pressure, if you lose weight, if you exercise, and that's a very important part. And all of those things sound hard, they sound overwhelming, especially to women who are busy, probably, taking care of their own mothers and their children and all of those things.
But I think, if you just start with the exercise part, once you just make yourself go for a walk a few days a week, you find out that you feel better, and then it's a little bit easier to have a little bit less food, or to pick lower calorie foods and better foods that are better for you. But I really think the exercise piece is the way to get a good start.
KING: Has heart disease affected you personally?
L. BUSH: No, it hasn't.
KING: No one in your family?
L. BUSH: No one in my family has, even though my father was a heavy smoker. But he died in his 80s of Alzheimer's.
KING: You're lucky not to have it...
L. BUSH: I know, I am lucky.
KING: It affects almost every family.
L. BUSH: Yes.
KING: How about friends?
L. BUSH: Sure, I have a lot of friends who've had heart attacks, a lot. One of our best friends had a heart attack at George's first inauguration...
L. BUSH: ... and we found out about it when we got to the big Sunday service after, at the end of the weekend of the inauguration at church. Another friend told us there.
And he's doing great, but it was really scary. And then, in the end, he was glad he was here, because he would have been in Midland, Texas, which is where he's from, and here he was able to go to straight to George Washington Hospital and treated really very well.
KING: That's where I went.
L. BUSH: That's what I thought.
KING: That's where President Reagan was taken.
L. BUSH: That's right.
KING: By the way, we think this is your first interview in this office, right? L. BUSH: That's right. I've done a lot of print interviews here, but I haven't done a television interview. This is my office in the East Wing.
KING: I thought it would be bigger.
L. BUSH: You can see all the things I'm involved in, a lot of children's books over here, because of my interest in literacy and in children's reading.
KING: It's not a huge office though.
L. BUSH: No, it's not a huge office. None of the offices are, really. You know, in the West Wing, the Oval Office is not a huge office. And I think -- I like that. I think it's very American, actually, to have lovely offices, but not particularly grand.
KING: So you have privacy here, as well?
L. BUSH: That's right, and I have a great staff that's here who are working on a lot of issues, including the Heart Truth Campaign, and a lot of other issues.
KING: How do you choose your issues?
L. BUSH: Well, I chose, first, of course, reading, and literacy, and early childhood development, because that's what I'd spent my life on. I was a teacher and then a librarian.
In Texas, when George was governor, I'd done a lot of work on ways that school districts can make sure they're really teaching reading, that children are really learning to read, and other ways that different people in every community can make sure little children, before they start school, have been exposed to reading and books, so they're ready to learn to read when they get there.
And then a lot of things came from other things that happened. For instance, the Heart Truth Campaign, when the National Heart, Lung and Blood Institute called me about it. Or this last fall, I had a seminar on boys, and really called to helping America's youth about what we can do for young people, particularly boys.
KING: Boys have a different...
L. BUSH: Boys are having a hard time. I mean, we know it intuitively. We know that more young men go to jail, of course, than young women. Boys are much more likely to join a gang. They're more likely to drop out of school.
But there are other statistics that say now about 56 percent of the people in college now are women and even in graduate school. So many more women are going on to higher education than men. And what is it -- you know, what can we do to address these problems so that our boys and young men can be successful?
KING: What was it like to raise twins? L. BUSH: It was great, really very, very fun. I am an only child. And so I really hoped I'd have two children so they'd have a sister or a brother. And when we found out -- I was 35 when I had them, so when I found out we were having twins, I felt double happiness, as my mother-in-law, Barbara Bush, said.
KING: Biggest problem in raising them?
L. BUSH: I think the same problems you have in raising any children.
KING: Oh, really?
L. BUSH: You know, the same things. I mean, when they were little, it was physically difficult to take both of them into the grocery store, for instance, if you had to carry two babies and you didn't want to leave one in the car while you went in and got a cart and brought out -- you know, put the other one in it. That part of it was hard.
But they have gotten a lot of emotional support for each other. And they're lucky to have a twin, especially under the circumstances, with their grandfather, when they were born, and now their father in politics. I think it's been -- they're lucky to have each other.
KING: We'll take a break. We'll be right back with Laura Bush from her office at the White House. Don't go away.
KING: We're back with Laura Bush, discussing heart disease and, in a little while, some other things.
I know you have to deal with stress.
L. BUSH: I do.
KING: Your job is stress. Your husband's job is major stress, and stress and heart attacks go hand in hand.
L. BUSH: That's right.
KING: Do you ever worry about it?
L. BUSH: Well, not really. I think we both are very good at dealing with stress. I don't think you could run for this office, or be elected for this office, or serve in it if you didn't handle stress well. And both of us do that.
And a lot of it is by exercise. That's certainly what he does. He has the chance to work out a lot, and I think that's a great stress-reliever. And then, also, we have a strong faith. We have lots of friends, the support from our friends and family. It's very, very important. It's really important.
KING: Speaking of stress, how are you handling the stress of diminishing poll results?
L. BUSH: Well, I don't like that, of course. But I also think I have a view of it that other people don't have. I know what it's like to live here. I know how high the stakes are right now in our history, with what happens in Iraq and what happens in Afghanistan, and how really, really important it is that we be able to have a good peace there where we support governments that can really start to function on their own as good, democratic governments.
I know how every problem in the world eventually comes to the foot of the president of the United States, to the American people, because we are so much more prosperous, so much more affluent in many ways, not just financially affluent, as a country, but also many of the ideas we have.
The ideas of our Constitution, the ideas of our democracy, the ideas of freedom of religion, the ideas of human rights, and the dignity of people, and the equality of men and women in every race are really values that, I think, are universal.
And I think, because of that, countries around the world look at us. They may say they're anti-American; they may say they hate things we stand for. But, in most cases, I think they would like their countries to have similar values, and similar qualities and, certainly, a similar sort of life.
KING: But why isn't the American public buying it?
L. BUSH: Well, I think they are. I really do think they are. I think the American public knows that. I think it's difficult -- it's very difficult to watch on television and see the loss of our soldiers in Iraq.
And to get the idea that the Iraqis don't care, that they don't want us there, that it's a sacrifice they don't respect or regard; I do think they do. I think the people in Afghanistan -- I know the people of Afghanistan, from when I've been there, say, "Don't leave," you know, "Don't leave us yet. Let us build our democracy. Let us get all of the institutions of democracy into place before you go."
There are many, many countries that want the help of the United States and that get the help of the United States. And I hope the American people can feel proud of that. We are a very, very generous nation.
I visited in Africa. I've seen the results of the money that comes from the taxpayers of the United States for AIDS relief, or for malaria, or tuberculosis relief. I've seen how important that is.
Just this week, we had President Sirleaf from Liberia, the first woman elected on the African continent as president. The United States stuck with Liberia for a long civil war that they had, a long time of war. And all the other embassies left, but our ambassador didn't leave.
And we stayed there, and we worked with them until finally they had a good, and fair, and free election, and a woman was elected who can start to rebuild Liberia. And we want to help; Americans want to help.
KING: There was an article in the "Washington Post" today saying that, when President Reagan ran into problems in his second term, Nancy sort of took some clout and power and suggested and put through some changes, administrative changes. Do you think that's necessary?
L. BUSH: Well, you know, I saw the article. And I know what advice you're telling me the person gave me and the writer gave me.
KING: Sally Quinn.
L. BUSH: And I think it's interesting that -- and this is so typical of Washington, that on the front page of the "Style" section would be the advice to the first lady, but I take advice to heart. I really do.
I mean, a lot of people give the president advice. A lot of people give me advice. A lot of people write...
KING: Well, what did you think of the advice?
L. BUSH: Well, I mean, I think there's some of it that's right and some of it that isn't, of course. And I know that the view from outside is a lot different from the view that George and I have inside, with each other, by ourselves. And there's certainly some advice I would feel free to give him and do; there's other advice that I really don't think I should give him.
KING: Like personnel?
L. BUSH: Well, no, I mean, I would certainly -- that's one of the things we do talk about the most, our personalities.
KING: Oh, yes?
L. BUSH: And I know everyone as well as he does who works here. I mean, I've worked with them, also. And so, you know, certainly, I would give him that kind of advice.
KING: We'll be back with our remaining moments with the first lady and then our major panel discussion on heart disease. Don't go away.
KING: We're back with Laura Bush.
You've lived the life of a first lady of a state and a federal government. Would you want it for one of your daughters?
L. BUSH: Sure, if they wanted it. I mean, the fact is, I'm the first lady because I happened to marry someone who ran for president and won. And I didn't run for the office. I'm here because he ran, and he wanted to run.
As he said, you know, don't feel sorry for him; he's a volunteer; he volunteered for this job, and he ran for the office.
I think that I have an unbelievable opportunity to see our country at its very, very best. And do I get to see it at its worst? Sure. But overwhelmingly, every opportunity that I have strengthens and encourages me because of the way the American people are.
KING: So you wouldn't mind it if one of them had the same path?
L. BUSH: Sure, no, I mean, why did you not suggest that one of them might run themselves?
KING: How about running? Would that bother you?
L. BUSH: No, not at all. If they were interested in that, I think that'd be terrific.
KING: Are you going to get involved in the 2006 elections?
L. BUSH: Sure.
KING: Are you going to campaign for...
L. BUSH: Sure, absolutely, I'll be campaigning for our candidates. I've already done some and have some more scheduled.
KING: When I first met you there in Austin, you were not a fan of running for office. That was not your ball game.
L. BUSH: Well, I know how hard it is. I do know how hard it is. And I had -- George and I had an advantage that most people, except John Quincy Adams, haven't had, and that is we had seen someone we loved in this job, and we knew what it was like, and we knew what we were getting into.
Certainly, we didn't know how extremely difficult and challenging these years would be for our country because of September 11th. But on the other hand, we knew to expect the unexpected, that that's what happens. That's what has happened to every president...
KING: So you like getting out now?
L. BUSH: So I do like it. I like it a lot. It's fun.
KING: Do you have a favorite? L. BUSH: A favorite state or...
KING: A favorite presidential...
L. BUSH: ... or a favorite president?
KING: Office, for the office in 2008.
L. BUSH: Oh, in 2008. I thought you were talking about the 2006 elections.
KING: Those governors and senators and congressmen, I don't know.
L. BUSH: I'll be campaigning for them, and then we'll see what happens in 2008. I have a lot of favorites. I think we have a very good slate of people who will be in the primaries.
KING: Have you spoken to Hillary since her criticism of this government and yours of her?
L. BUSH: Sure, she went to the funeral, Coretta Scott King funeral, she and President Clinton did, rode with us on Air Force One to Atlanta.
KING: Did you talk about that?
L. BUSH: No, we don't talk about that. You know, it's sort of like -- in politics, you have a way you are when you're together with people, and I guess a way you can sound when you're separate, what you might say when you're on the campaign trail. And we all know that.
KING: Would Secretary Rice make a good president?
L. BUSH: She'd make an excellent president, but I don't think we can talk her into running.
L. BUSH: I don't think so. I think she sincerely does not want to run, but I wish she would.
KING: Want to go back to college?
L. BUSH: I think she probably wants to move back to California and have a wonderful, you know, life, post-secretary of state. But she's a wonderful secretary of state for our country. She would be a great president.
KING: Because there's stories she wants to be commissioner of the National Football League?
L. BUSH: Well, I heard that she said she didn't want to now, that she was still going to continue to be secretary of state.
KING: And what do you want to do? L. BUSH: Well, I want to continue to do what I've always done, and that is work on all of these issues that I think are important. I'm interested in other ways I can help. I have a lot of international interests that I didn't have before, the women of Afghanistan, all of those issues, the people of Liberia, the people of Africa, the treatment of AIDS and worldwide, and in our own country, as well, what we can do to help people who are afflicted with it.
KING: Thank you, Laura, as always.
L. BUSH: Thanks so much, Larry. I appreciate it.
KING: Thanks for your work on heart disease.
L. BUSH: Thanks a lot.
KING: Laura Bush, the first lady of the United States. And when we come back, a major panel discussion on the heart. Don't go away.
KING: We thank Laura Bush for participating in the first half of the show. We now welcome, here in Washington, Reverend Robert Schuller, the founding pastor of the Crystal Cathedral, the former host of "The Hour of Power," but still an active participant in that program. In 1997, he suffered a minor heart attack and underwent angioplasty.
In Philadelphia, our good friend, Patty Duke, Oscar- and Emmy- winning actress. She underwent heart bypass surgery in 2004. Her Patty Duke collection for Boyds Bears is adding a heart bear for heart patients.
In Los Angeles is Kate Jackson, the actress who underwent cardiac surgery as an adult to correct a hole in her heart. She's past recipient of the American Heart Association's Power of Love award for her ongoing efforts to increase public awareness of heart disease.
And finally, in Miami is Dr. Arthur Agatston, the famed cardiologist, developer of the cardiac scan, associate professor, University of Miami, Miller School of Medicine, and the best-selling author of the world-famous "South Beach Diet."
Do you think someone, Reverend Schuller, like Mrs. Bush helps?
REV. ROBERT SCHULLER, CRYSTAL CATHEDRAL: Oh, yes. And it's wonderful that she shared her spirit this morning. It was wonderful.
KING: That plays its part, does it not?
SCHULLER: Oh, it absolutely.
KING: Patty Duke, what do you think is its importance in this fight?
PATTY DUKE, ACTRESS: Oh, first of all, I think Mrs. Bush makes something important wherever she goes. I think she's just wonderful. Certainly, the fact that you bring people like us together to talk about our experiences is vital in the education of people who may be at risk or family members. Thank you.
KING: Kate Jackson, what do you think of the first lady's involvement?
KATE JACKSON, ACTRESS: I think it's absolutely fantastic. I just think it's wonderful. I think she's wonderful, and I think that the attention that she brings to heart disease and women and heart disease is just fabulous.
KING: And Dr. Agatston, from a physician's point of view and an author's point of view, what do you think?
DR. ARTHUR AGATSTON, CARDIOLOGIST: It's wonderful and it's measurable. In the last three years, one of the big problems with women and heart disease is lack of awareness. They don't realize it's the number-one killer of women. And that's changed over the last three years, and I think much of that can be attributed to Laura Bush.
KING: Let's discuss each of your personal cases. Reverend Schuller, what happened to you in '97?
SCHULLER: Well, I was having lunch. And I thought I was having a gastric attack. And for some reason, impulsively, I told my secretary, "Make an appointment with Dr. Allen (ph) at UCI," which is only a half of mile from my office. "Let me get checked out."
No reason to do that. It was divine impulse. And I went there, and he said I'm having a slight attack. It was a divine impulse. And I went there and I said I am having a slight attack. And no damage done to the heart, but I got it taken care of. They put a stint in one of the arteries and that is that.
KING: You got a lucky break then.
SCHULLER: Yes. But I think my faith has helped me through the years. You know, when I started this church when I was 15 years old, I stopped -- I didn't have any member that died of a heart attack. This was unbelievable. And it was the power of the positive thinking spirit.
KING: Patty Duke, what happened to you?
PATTY DUKE, ACTRESS HAD CORONARY BYPASS SURGERY NOVEMBER 2004: Oh, in late 2003, I started to experience little pains in my chest. But I, too, thought it was something to do with acid reflux or something like that. And certainly I didn't think a woman of my young years would be dealing with heart symptoms.
At any rate, there comes a moment when you know, you absolutely know it is now, get help. And what we're trying to do, what you're trying to do is to teach people to look for that help before that absolute moment. At any rate, I started by having a number of stints. And then we reached a point in 2004, November of 2004, where it was decided that another stint really was not going to do the trick. And so Dr. Burnett (ph) said, I think maybe we should go for the bypass this time. You know, like it was, do you want sprinkles on your ice cream or just the chocolate syrup?
But I didn't want to be caught looking fearful. So I said, absolutely, of course, we can do that. And as we proceeded, the terror grew and grew and grew. And I realize now that it was because of my ignorance of what was going on.
I had the bypass. Didn't know I could feel so good even with my sternum in -- like that. And since then, certainly rehabilitation was extremely important to me. So I did go to rehab, and I was a good little student.
KING: And how are you now?
DUKE: And thank God, I'm fine. I don't even take medicine for my heart condition.
KING: We'll get back to you.
Kate Jackson, what happened to you?
KATE JACKSON, FORMER "CHARLIE'S ANGELS" STAR HAD ADULT SURGERY TO CORRECT HOLE IN HEART: Well, it was about 12 years ago, I can't really believe it was that long ago, but I had some shortness of breath, and no other symptoms at all. And it was discovered by Dr. Gerald Pohost, who is the head of cardiology at SC now. He was at the University of Alabama at Birmingham then, and I was visiting my family in Alabama.
He listened to my heart with his stethoscope, and I had an ASD. I was born with a hole in my heart. So for every, say, two quarts of blood that went through that was supposed to be oxygenated and go on into the rest of my body, one went through and one went back through the hole and went through the whole process again. So I had open- heart surgery, and I'm fine now.
KING: Dr. Agatston, we discussed this with the first lady. Heart disease is a male term, isn't it?
DR. ARTHUR AGATSTON, CARDIOLOGIST, DEVELOPED CARDIAC SCAN; AUTHOR; "THE SOUTH BEACH DIET": Yes. It was called the male disease, even though over the last 10 years, more women have died of heart attacks than men. And awareness of women, again, often women have not sought attention early enough, and not only it's that women haven't been aware, but doctors haven't been aware of the risk in women. There is a delay.
Menopause and estrogen is protective. So women's risk occurs a little bit later. But nevertheless, at any age, more women die of heart disease than they do of cancer. And often, again, doctors are not aware of it either, and so they may take women's symptoms a little bit less seriously.
KING: So in other words, a woman could go to a doctor and he would diagnose it as what?
AGATSTON: Oh, more indigestion or muscular pain or stress. And some of the tests aren't as accurate in women either. So stress tests may be misleading. It is a tougher diagnosis in women.
KING: Do stints work as well in women?
AGATSTON: In general, the procedures do not work as well. It may be multi-factorial. Women do have smaller arteries, and the disease is a little bit different. They have more what's called micro-vascular disease. The small vessels actually within the heart muscle, not the big vessels that run on top of the heart muscle, they can be involved also.
But there are actually different mechanisms of disease, and they're all made worse when estrogen levels go down after menopause.
KING: We'll take a break and come back and talk about how they deal with this, starting with Reverend Schuller, post the incident. Don't go away.
KING: We're back with our panel.
Reverend Schuller, what did you do after your angioplasty?
SCHULLER: What I did is start reading more about what causes heart problems. I'm in a book right now, which is I think a fabulous book, "The Heart Speaks." I've never met the author, but she's Dr. Mimi Guarneri. And she is a cardiologist. And it's a fabulous, phenomenal book that shows how emotions and spirit transcend elements that impact the organism called the body.
I got interested in that spiritual part of it. I was afraid that a lot of the professional comedian, as you were, you know, Bob Hope, was at his funeral and a good friend. Professional comedian. Art Linkletter, I saw him at the airport coming out here. He will hit 100. Bob Hope hit 100. Norman Peale, 93. Milton Berle, 100. Jack Benny.
KING: Proving what?
SCHULLER: Proving that these professional comedians live long. They have a professional perk. It's laughter. Laughter gives off endorphins.
KING: And have you changed anything like exercise or what you eat?
SCHULLER: Not like I should, no. Next question?
KING: You didn't get scared enough? SCHULLER: No.
KING: Dr. Agatston, do you buy the fact -- and comics do live a long time -- that laughter adds to life?
AGATSTON: There are studies that laughter does and faith does. Many observational studies over the years that the attitude that people who are religious do better. And recently some more sophisticated studies on the benefits of prayer after people have had heart attacks. And I think the mind body relationship is very important and spirituality and religion does appear to have positive effects.
KING: Why does prayer work doctor?
AGATSTON: You know, that we don't know. The mechanisms are not clear. Though the endorphins, as Reverend Schuler mentions, when you're happier, certainly helps. We know depression -- patients who are depressed after heart attacks are more likely to die. When one spouse dies, the second spouse who is depressed is more likely to die in the next year or two. So these -- all these mind/body relationships are very clear. The exact mechanisms, we don't know.
KING: Patty Duke, do you carry around a fear of more surgery, a fear of further heart disease?
DUKE: I do not. Which is not to say that I don't think that that's possible for me. The fear has been addressed. Having gone through it once, now okay, you know exactly how it goes. But also, during the rehab time, and after, as Dr. Schuler says, the continual education of yourself, not being obsessed with it.
I mean, I live a very free -- I mean, I vacuum my house just the way I always did. But now I'm very attuned to my body. I know when I'm being given a sign. And I act on it immediately.
KING: Reverend Schuler is smiling. You do not do that?
SCHULER: I read good stuff. I read the Bible. I read positive- thinking literature. And the heart speaks. Dr. Bibi Garderi (ph), I can't wait to meet her.
KING: But don't you think you ought to exercise a little more
SCHULER: Oh, yes, I should.
KING: -- to be on the safe side?
SCHULER: Of course I should. My wife tells me that all the time.
KING: Kate, do you take better care of yourself?
JACKSON: Well, you know, I always did take pretty good care of myself. I didn't realize it, but I was living a heart-healthy lifestyle. Larry, it's actually -- heart disease is actually a matter of choice. It's the choice that -- your choice of lifestyle will determine, unless you have risk factors, such as hereditary risk factors, your lifestyle choices will determine whether or not you'll have heart disease.
If you smoke, you'll probably have heart disease. If you don't eat a good diet, if you eat a lot of fat and you eat butter and steak and heavy things like that, you'll probably get heart disease. If you don't exercise for half an hour a day, at a good pace, you could get heart disease. It's a matter of choice, really.
And I've had a great time speaking for the American Heart Association and talking to women about heart disease, because one out of two women die of heart disease. It's the number one killer of women. And there's a great book I want to tell you about by Dr. Nisha Goldberg, called "Women Are Not Small Men." And it's about women and heart disease and how different we are, when we talk to our doctors about our symptoms, or when we go into our doctors and they don't treat our hearts as they do a 50-year-old executive who smokes a pack of cigarettes and has a stressful job and one day drops dead on the ninth hole or something.
We have to educate our doctors sometimes, too, and tell them, just because I'm a woman doesn't mean I don't have -- I'm not at risk for heart disease.
KING: Doesn't that bother you that doctors are less aggressive regarding women than men?
JACKSON: Oh, it makes me furious. But I figure if we all educate ourselves, and what we're doing here today, and we've been doing before, and Larry, I've been fortunate enough to be with you on other occasions, I think we're helping to educate people -- and women in particular -- about heart disease and women and heart disease, so they can have the -- sometimes it's the nerve to say to the doctor, excuse me, but you've forgotten one very important thing. I'm at great risk for heart disease. My mother had it. Her mother had it. My sister has it. Aren't you going to look into my risk factors?
KING: Dr. Agatston, can you predict a heart attack?
AGATSTON: Absolutely. And --
KING: You can?
AGATSTON: Yes. It's very important to understand that the great majority of heart attacks and strokes are preventable. If one of my patients has a heart attack or requires a stent, I consider it a medical failure. We can prevent this. Our ability to predict is much, much better, with advanced blood testing. One of the new tests we hear about a lot is C-reactive protein, a sign of inflammation. That seems to be a more important risk factor in women than in men. We're just aware of it relatively recently.
We mentioned the heart scan that Dr. Janowitz and I developed more than ten years ago, has been used effectively in men and women. Everybody has their own level of cholesterol and other risk factors where arteriosclerosis is building up in our vessel walls. It may not be causing symptoms, or cause an abnormal stress test but a plaque can burst and cause a sudden heart attack. That can be identified with a heart scan years before it causes a heart attack or stroke, and with proper therapy, you can prevent the heart attack.
KING: We'll be right back with more on this edition of LARRY KING LIVE. Don't go away.
KING: Tonight the Larry King Cardiac Foundation will hold its annual Washington dinner. We hold one in Washington, one in Los Angeles, in which we -- that foundation helps people who can't afford it, to get various types of heart procedures, from bypass to stents to even new hearts. And that big dinner is sold out tonight here in Washington. We're very, very grateful for that.
Our guests are Reverend Robert Schuler, Patty Duke, Kate Jackson and Dr. Arthur Agatston. Dr. Agatston is the author of "The South Beach Diet." How does the cardiac scan work, doctor?
AGATSTON: It's a quick CAT scan. The problem with a conventional CAT scans we've used to look at your brain or bones is it acquires images slowly. And if you shoot the heart, you get a blur. The new CAT scans shoot rapidly. It's like using a camera with a fast shutter speed to stop sports action. So you can freeze the motion of the heart. You can see calcium which reflect arteriosclerosis.
If somebody is 40 years old and heading for a heart attack at 55 or 60, they're already building up plaque. And if we identify it, and lower cholesterol and do good lifestyle interventions, we can prevent the progression of that disease, and prevent the future heart attack.
And prevention is so important, because with the baby boomers moving into the cardiac age group, we're not going to be able to afford all these procedures and heart attacks.
KING: Do you get regular checkups, Reverend Schuler?
SCHULER: Yes, I do. About every six months I go. It's been eight years and I'm in perfect health, have been ever since. I've never had to --
DUKE: Thank God.
SCHULER: -- take the special medicines -- it's a little bottle -- what do they call these pills?
SCHULLER: That's not it. But anyway, I don't need any medications.
KING: You take no medications?
SCHULLER: No. Well, yes, I do, but I don't know the names of them.
KING: Patty, do you take medications?
DUKE: I do not take medication for my heart. For other things, I take lithium for the bipolar situation. But I'm very blessed. I have very low cholesterol just naturally, and if I don't mess with that by adding all the things that I really love to have, then I'm OK.
I also have learned that perhaps taking a walk after dinner, even if it's from your own house, around the block, has very, very positive effect. So I tend to be a couch potato and so I take my little walks, and my treat is to get home to see "Jeopardy."
KING: Is it a myth, Kate, that a little alcohol, a little red wine is good for you?
JACKSON: Well, I don't know. You know, I don't drink. And I really don't think it is good for you. But didn't we hear -- did P.K. Shaw say that a glass of wine was all right? That it was...
KING: Yes, he did.
JACKSON: ...it was OK? So, you know, I mean, I just as soon stay away from all of it. And Patty, you have to do more than walk for a few minutes. You've got to walk a half an hour every day.
DUKE: Oh gosh, Kate, you caught me.
JACKSON: Every day. And Larry, something's changed since the last time you asked me what do I take? And I said two baby aspirin. I now take Lipitor. I have got hereditary high cholesterol. So in spite of the diet that I eat, which has no fat in it at all, my cholesterol crept up there.
KING: We are discovering, Dr. Agatston, that Lipitor, another -- other pills in that regard, may prove valuable in areas other than cholesterol, right?
AGATSTON: Yes. Well, they certainly help prevent heart attacks and strokes. There's some suggestion that they may help bone density, may help prevent Alzheimer's, help keep our vessels young.
One important point, if we start with good lifestyle, good diet and exercise, when we're young, our chance of getting heart disease in the future is very, very low. But once we have it and once we're at high risk, lifestyle is still important, but we shouldn't be shy about taking the medications. They're much safer than you'd expect from just hearing the advertisements and all the disclaimers. They're really very safe and very effective.
KING: By the way, Dr. Shaw mentioned that you studied with him. And he's very proud of what's happened to you, doctor.
AGATSTON: Well, he was -- I remember his lectures still. It was actually when he was a cardiology fellow when I was a resident. And his lectures were so good, I remember them to this day. KING: We'll be back with our remaining moments with this outstanding panel, earlier Laura Bush. Don't go away.
KING: We have a few moments remaining.
Dr. Agatston, what individuals should definitely go and get regular heart checkups?
AGATSTON: Well, certainly if there's a family history of heart disease, the more family members, the younger they are, the more important and the earlier you should be evaluated. If you have a parent who's had heart attacks before 60, then even in your 30s, you should absolutely be evaluated.
Smokers should always be evaluated. That's the one worst thing you can do. You should know your cholesterol levels, your blood pressure from the time you're in your 20s. And depending on the amount of risk factors, you should go for more extensive testing. The heart scan we recommend mainly for men after the age of 40 and women after menopause.
KING: Does your son get checkups, Dr. Schuller?
SCHULLER: I don't know.
KING: Think you ought to ask him if you had a heart attack there's a chance he might have one.
SCHULLER: Could be. I'll ask him.
KING: How about people in your family, Patty?
DUKE: My brother has had heart disease and bypasses. My father died at the age of 50, we're told from a heart attack. So it's in my family. So I -- probably if I hadn't had the experience I had, I wouldn't have paid enough attention. But people don't need to get that far. It isn't that grim. What's grim is when you don't pay attention.
KING: Kate, what about your family?
JACKSON: No, we didn't -- there's not any history of heart disease in my family.
KING: Are we reducing it, Dr. Agatston? Are there less heart attacks?
AGATSTON: There's been a trend to fewer heart attacks and less death after heart attacks are treated. But the bad news is there's more obesity, more, what we call metabolic syndrome or pre-diabetes in the population in our young people. And the concern is that it might be, if it's going the way it's going, it could be the first generation living a shorter time than the parents, if we don't change things soon. KING: Do you realize how big the obesity problem is, Dr. Schuller, among children?
SCHULLER: Oh yes. It is awful. It is unbelievable.
KING: It is a plague.
SCHULLER: Yes it is. It is because they don't exercise. And sitting at the computer doesn't help. And that's going to -- Patty, that's going to lead to future heart disease.
DUKE: Exactly. I am, again, very fortunate. Most of my family members, even the little ones, are very active and many vegetarians in my family. And I'm getting closer to it inch by inch. Obesity is so complex to deal with. But if we could find a way to talk to our children in a nurturing manner about why certain things are not good for them to eat. And one of the things it can lead to is heart disease.
JACKSON: You know, what one of the things you can do is the way you place foods in your refrigerator can make a difference. If you put the grapes and the apples and the pears and the things down low where they can reach them, and the skim milk.
KING: That's a great idea.
DUKE: That's a fabulous idea.
JACKSON: And the Jello and stuff.
KING: We're out of time.
JACKSON: Don't even have butter in there. Have margarine in there and put it up high.
SCHULLER: Anything to make us be positive thinking people. I want to say what I think has helped you so much, Larry, after your bypasses, your marriage, your wife, your sons. They flood you with a lot of good feelings.
KING: Thank you all. Thank you all very much. Thanks to Laura Bush earlier.
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