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How Larry King, at 81, stays active and fit despite Type 2 diabetes

Larry and Shawn King
Larry King, pictured with his wife, Shawn, keeps his mind and body busy.
(Jay L. Clendenin / Los Angeles Times)

On the cusp of 82, Larry King has no desire to slow down. With broadcasting jobs dating to the 1950s, including his time from 1985 to 2010 as host of CNN’s “Larry King Live” and his current show “Larry King Now” on Hulu and his Ora TV network, King thrives on keeping busy and connecting with friends and family. King’s father died of cardiac arrest at 46, when King was just 9. After suffering his own heart attack in 1987, he changed his health habits for the better. He talks with us about staying fit amid all the chatter.

Are you one of those people who’ve figured out retirement isn’t for you?

One of the big reasons that I am able to be 81, almost 82 years old, and still stay healthy is because I think work is a big factor in my life.... I tried retirement for a month and then I remembered somebody said once, “Retire to what?” I don’t golf. I don’t play shuffleboard. I don’t want to live in Arizona. I’ve had the heart attack and heart surgery, I defeated prostate cancer, have Type 2 diabetes but I remain in good health. … I follow my doctor’s wishes, I take my prescription drugs, I take a lot of vitamins.... Also, even at my advanced age, having two teenage boys keeps me young … I got a lot of things going for me. I got no complaints.

Your heart attack was almost 30 years ago. You’ve said you used to love fattening and greasy foods. Also having diabetes, how do you keep the cravings at bay to stay healthy?

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I did everything wrong. I smoked three packs a day. But I never thought it would happen to me. When I had the heart attack that scared me to death, I was 53 years old. I never smoked a cigarette again. I changed a lot of my habits. I lost a lot of weight. I’ve kept the weight down. My routine now is this: I have one-half of a scooped-out bagel … and some lox every morning. Low-fat cream cheese, and very little of it. And Honey Nut Cheerios with a ton of blueberries. Rarely do I have lunch. If I do have lunch, it’s a light salad. For dinner, I have fish or a steak. I will have vegetables.... I still have the cravings, and sometimes, you know what I do? There’ll be a birthday cake. I’ll take a tiny little piece just to get a little sweetness in my mouth but I resist having more because I really think about living. I’m not ready to go yet. I’m too curious.

You usually meet with your friends for breakfast in Beverly Hills, yes?

We meet, talk and solve all the problems in the world.... The main part of breakfast is community. It’s sharing friendships.... Friends are the family you choose.

Do you exercise and, if so, how has your regimen changed over the years?

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I do a lot of walking. I live in Beverly Hills and it’s a great city to walk in.... I keep actively busy in my mind, always reading books.... And I read five newspapers every day. That’s not for work, but it helps at work. That’s for my pleasure and enjoyment and enlightenment.

Do you think all of those things help you keep your energy, or are you naturally energetic?

I think I have natural stamina. I don’t know where that comes from. For example, I don’t get jet lag.... I’m never afraid of work. I’m an early riser. I’m up at 6:30, 7 a.m. every day. When the boys were younger I used to take them to school every day.... I have wonder every day. And I learn something every day because I interview people every day. I’ve interviewed 60,000 people in my career. I’m still learning.

health@latimes.com

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