Live and Death

By Christina Fuoco-Karasinski

Comedian Howie Mandel is known for being a funny guy, but he learned cholesterol is no laughing matter.

When he was diagnosed as having high cholesterol in his 30s, he considered it “mumbo jumbo,” and he didn’t really accept how it would affect his life. His physician told him to take statins and that should take care of the problem.

Still, it didn’t seem urgent.

“There was no red flag,” Mandel says during an interview at Found:RE hotel in Phoenix.

“I didn’t like the way the statins were affecting me, so I stopped taking them. I have since been informed that 50% of the people who are prescribed statins do that and they don’t inform their caregiver.”

When he returned a year later for a physical, his doctor was shocked about his cholesterol numbers. Mandel confessed he was off his meds. The physician said there was a simple remedy: change the prescription.

“He saw I was being somewhat cavalier about it and he explained it to me,” he says. “It scared the heebie jeebies out of me.”

Mandel now tours the United States, sharing his tips and tricks for managing high cholesterol as part of the Take Cholesterol to Heart campaign. The “America’s Got Talent” judge makes it a priority to take care of his heart health when he’s on the road.

Mandel runs 7 miles a day and eats healthy.

“I’m so active,” he says. “I’m young and I don’t feel my age. I feel amazing. I have an amazing amount of energy.”

He also takes the words “high cholesterol” to heart.

“I learned this is the leading cause of heart disease and possible strokes,” he says. “That freaked me out. Years had passed and I partnered with lovely people and we made this website,

“This campaign existed before I came onboard, but it’s my story and apparently it’s everybody’s story about how important this is.”

Many people don’t realize they’re walking time bombs. Folks who suspect high cholesterol can’t just visit a website and figure it out. Mandel isn’t a doctor nor a caregiver, but he’s just trying to share his message.

“I want to just talk and share,” he says.

Mandel is busy these days with the weekly “America’s Got Talent.” He was especially touched by the blind, acoustic pianist Kodi Lee. Mandel gets emotional just thinking about Lee.

“That’s probably the most emotional I’ve been and I’ve been a judge on that show for 10 years,” he adds. “I’ve never been more surprised than (when) I was watching Kodi, that a young man with autism and blind can get up on stage with his mom and perform.

“My heart was just welling up with concern. I just wanted it to go well for him. He sat down at the piano and then boom. His video has more than 200 million hits online.”

So far, Mandel has been impressed by the new judges, Gabrielle Union and Julianne Hough. He misses Heidi Klum and Spice Girl Melanie Brown.

“I miss my old friends who went off because they had other projects,” Mandel says. “One went to be a Spice Girl and tour the world, the other is taking on the world of fashion.

“This was my first time meeting Gabrielle and Julianne. They are so beautiful and smart and accomplished. They have so much to add to our show. I feel like a foster judge. I sit there for 10 years and we take in all these rescue judges who will sit there for a little while until they find a better gig. That’s how I roll.”

Mandel juggles “America’s Got Talent,” “Animals Doing Things” on National Geographic and “Deal or No Deal” on CNBC with 200 comedy performances each year. He also has a special on on demand, iTunes and Amazon.

“That, unlike my other shows, is not kid-friendly or family-friendly, but if you’re an adult and you want to sit down and you want to laugh, I’ll help you escape for a little while.

“When I’m not doing all those shows, I’m spreading the word to help make people’s lives hopefully go a little easier.”