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Dick Clark, American Bandstand icon, dies at 82 of heart attack

Dick clarkPhoto: TVLand
Dick Clark
, a real American idol, has died of a heart attack at age 82, of a heart attack in LA, TMZ reported.

Prior to his 2004 stroke I had the chance to interview Clark for a story on diabetes, something he felt strongly about discussing. I remember him as a true gentleman during the chat.

Here's the text from that piece, published in The Miami Herald in April 2004:

DICK CLARK TAKES THE BANDSTAND TO TALK ABOUT DIABETES

BYLINE: HOWARD COHEN, hcohen@miamiherald.com

SECTION: FRONT; Pg. 4A April 21, 2004

Dick Clark - of American Bandstand fame - has a new gig: persuading people about the dangers of diabetes and the toll it takes on your heart.

Clark should know. On Tuesday, the 74-year-old TV personality told The Herald how he got the disease 10 years ago but kept quiet until late last week, when he began a campaign to raise awareness about diabetes, which affects more than 13 million Americans and is growing significantly.

"Two-thirds of people with diabetes don't even know they are at risk for heart disease and stroke," said Clark, who says he's fine but needs to upgrade his contact lenses regularly. Diabetes affects vision. "The leading cause of death for people with diabetes is heart disease. This is new news, came to the fore in the last year or so. I'm here to spread the word."

The word is not good. The number of Americans who have diabetes has more than doubled since 1980 and five million Americans are not aware they have the disease. Diabetes kills more people than AIDS and breast cancer combined.

Type 1, affecting about 10 percent of people with diabetes, is the most severe form and usually strikes children and teens. The pancreas fails to make insulin because the body's immune system destroys the cells that produce it.

Type 2, the kind Clark has, is the most common form, affecting about 80 percent of those with diabetes. Those with Type 2 can produce their own insulin but are unable to process it correctly, leading to high glucose levels, which damage the eyes, kidneys, nerves and exacerbate heart disease.

This type used to be called adult onset diabetes because it generally hit people in their 50s and 60s. But a growing number of overweight children with sedentary lifestyles have developed the disease.

Type 2 can be controlled by diet and exercise.

"The recommended nutrition is a balanced diet limiting saturated fats, going low-fat, and healthy portion control," said Virginia Zamudio, president of the American Association of Diabetes Educators. "The same nutrition that will help manage diabetes is the same that will manage heart disease. The cornerstone to managing diabetes is nutrition and healthy physical activity."

Keeping cholesterol levels down - a total cholesterol of 135 or less is recommended - and blood pressure at or below 130 over 80 is also advisable.

Clark, however, is the rarity. He says he doesn't have a family history of the disease and he was never obese. He quit smoking in 1968.

"On a good day I weigh 158 or 159. On a bad day 162 or 163," the five-foot-nine media mogul says. "I've never had a serious weight problem. [But] I was brought up in a generation where you have to clear your plate - 'There are starving children somewhere' - and so you had to eat everything in front of you. Now it's eat a well-rounded set of meals but leave some behind."

Clark's fitness regimen includes about 20 minutes daily of cardio work on a stair climber and walking machine and strength training using 15-pound weights while watching TV. "Boring as hell," he teases. "Much as I hate it, it's somewhat addictive."

Clark is not the typical Type 2 case, concurs Dr. Pilar Solano of the Diabetes Research Institute at the University of Miami.

"The typical diabetes Type 2 is an obese patient who usually had a family history and a sedentary lifestyle," Solano said.

By coming forward, Clark can bring attention to a worldwide problem, educators say.

"Here's someone they know and . . . trust," Zamudio said. "If Dick Clark can pay attention to it and manage his risk, well, then, maybe they will think, 'I can do that too.' "

Dick Clark and the American Association of Diabetes Educators are promoting the brochure, Diabetes: Know the Heart Part. To order, call 800-224-4089. In addition, readers may obtain advice from AADE educators by calling 800-832-6874.

For more follow @HowardCohen on Twitter

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