What Really Killed Dick Clark

Dick Clark backstage during the Grammy Awards telecast 2/21/90

Like most of the country, I was saddened last week to learn that Dick Clark had died suddenly from a massive heart attack.

The news triggered a flurry of memories in me, harkening back to my pre-teen years when I used to hurry home from school to catch American Bandstand on TV.

There, in the privacy of my latchkey home, I practiced the latest dance steps in front of our Zenith console, memorized the words to the top 10 hit songs of the day, and generally aped how to dress and act "cool" like the big kids.

Here today, gone tomorrow

Clark's sudden death was a sobering reminder of the impermanence of life.

It seems like "just yesterday" that I was a pimply punk who couldn't wait to trade my trusty tube of Clearasil for a Gillette razor.

How could half a century have snuck by so quickly?

Of course, that's how life is: Temporary and evanescent.

When an icon from our life passes on, it's an unavoidable reminder that, one day, we will too.

Heeding the message

For me, there are three "messages" in Dick Clark's passing.

First, it's a reminder to take even better care of myself. (I'll get to the other two in a bit.)

Clark was often called "America's oldest teenager" because he never seemed to age and appeared to be the epitome of good health.

I never knew that he had Type diabetes for almost 20 years.

He certainly didn't fit our usual picture of diabetes because he was so slim. But this is a popular misconception.

Being fat doesn't cause diabetes.

Is "diabesity" a real medical condition?

The latest medical fad making the rounds today is something called "diabesity" -- a made-up medical condition popularized by Dr. Mark Hyman in his recent book, "The Blood Sugar Solution."

Dr. Hyman uses the term to lump together "pre-diabetes," Type 2 diabetes, and obesity (or being overweight) as a new "disease" - and he claims that more than half the US population is suffering from it.

The implication is that anyone who is overweight has diabesity, as well. But as Dick Clark's example shows, this just isn't necessarily true.

The fact is, 20-30% of all people with diabetes are slim or have normal weight.

And with regard to Dr. Hyman's diabesity calculations, his numbers don't add up.

Current statistics show that two-thirds of the US population is either overweight or obese. Yet, approximately 10% of American adults have Type 2 - while as many as 60 million could have undiagnosed prediabetes.

In other words, just because you're overweight doesn't mean you have undiagnosed diabetes. And if you happen to be slim, like Dick Clark was, it's no guarantee that you don't have - or won't get - Type 2.

Putting the blame on being overweight or obese takes the focus off the real culprit, which is…

The incredible amount of sugar Americans consume

A lot of people these days are pinning the blame for our diabetes epidemic on obesity.

True, there are a number of health problems associated with carrying too much weight. But being overweight doesn't mean that getting Type 2 diabetes is inevitable.

Let's look again at Dick Clark again, who was diagnosed with Type 2 at age 64.

Not long after, he became a spokesman for the American Association of Diabetes Educators and frequently spoke about "proper management," which included controlling one's weight, exercising more, eating better, watching your cholesterol, and keeping blood sugar under control with medication.

This was the conventional advice of his day -- and remains so today, two decades later.

Yet, since that time, clinical research (such as the famous ACCORD study of 2008) has shown that tight management of blood sugar with drugs actually increases the incidence of heart attack and stroke.

And a separate section of ACCORD further revealed that cholesterol-lowering medications fail to protect against fatal cardiovascular events.

Heart attack and stroke (Clark had one in 2004), are the leading complications of diabetes. Together, they're the cause in 75% of all diabetic fatalities.

While his death certificate may cite heart attack .as the cause of death, diabetes - in all probability - is what really claimed Dick Clark's life.

We're still receiving the wrong information

What can we do about this?

Clearly, current medical treatment isn't stopping the spread of Type 2. There's a new diagnosis every 5 seconds somewhere in the world.

Simply eating fewer calories, cutting-out fatty foods, losing weight, and dutifully taking your meds -- which sum up the recommendations of the American Diabetes Association (ADA) and mainstream medicine -- has misled an entire generation.

If we don't understand what really causes and worsens Type 2 diabetes, how will we ever get it under control?

Diabetes isn't about being fat.

It isn't about eating too many fatty foods.

And it certainly isn't about keeping your blood sugar and cholesterol under doctor-recommended limits with medications.

The truth about Type 2

Type 2 diabetes is about consuming too much sugar and refined carbs -- and not getting enough physical activity to burn it off.

It's about the massive amounts of inflammation that all this blood sugar and consequent insulin cause in our blood stream and organs.

This inflammation literally "burns us up" on the inside.

It destroys our blood vessels, cranks up our blood pressure, clogs up our kidneys, and sets our nerves on fire.

It steals our eyesight. Rots our limbs. And kills our brain cells.

As long as we keep eating sugar, gulping sodas, and wolfing down refined carbohydrates, our body never has a chance to heal itself.

We simply keep getting worse -- and all the drugs in the world can't possibly turn this around.

Our only hope

Our only hope is to cool this fire down. And the first place to start is by quitting sugar.

More and more people are coming to realize just how toxic and addictive sweeteners are.

As I wrote last week, this stuff is pure poison.

So please don't fall for the seduction of doctors and the ADA, which promise that you can "have your cake and eat it too," just as long as you take your blood sugar drugs.

You can no more make a compromise with diabetes than you can make a deal with the devil.

We already have plenty of scientific evidence exposing this lie.

We also have reams of clinical studies and thousands of successful case histories proving that Type 2 can be reversed simply by improving your diet and changing your lifestyle before it's too late.

There are plenty of books that show how to achieve this, from William Banting's Letter on Corpulence (published in 1863) to Dr. Bernstein's Diabetes Solution to Dr. Hyman's The Blood Sugar Solution - and to my own step-by-step program (written with Dr. Stefan Ripich), The 30-Day Diabetes Cure.

All these books agree on the basic methods for reversing Type 2 and rescuing your health.

Start cooling off your body now

In a nutshell, here are the important steps that can stop the raging fires of inflammation
-- and turn the tide against Type 2 diabetes…

Quit drinking sodas. These are pure sweetener. A 12-ounce can or bottle contains the equivalent of 9 teaspoons of sugar (usually in the form of high fructose corn syrup, which is even worse for your body). The same goes for sweetened teas, sports drinks, fancy coffee drinks, even fruit juice.

Avoid processed foods. Don't eat anything that comes in a box or a bag. These food products also trigger inflammation because they're "fast carbs" that are quickly converted to blood sugar. This includes bread and baked goods … breakfast cereals … chips and most commercial snacks … cookies and crackers … you get the idea.

Eat whole food. Build your diet around high-quality protein, fresh vegetables, and healthy fats. (You'll find full details about the Diabetes Healing Superfoods in The 30-Day Diabetes Cure.)

Get more active. Regular physical activity burns up the excess glucose in your bloodstream. Coupled with avoiding sugar and refined carbs, physical activity will keep your insulin low, so your stored body fat can be burned as an energy supply. Exercise also re-sensitizes your cells to insulin, so you'll use less (whether it's your body's own or your medication). Start by walking and build up to 30-60 minutes of vigorous, sweaty activity every day. It's the best medicine you have - so use it.

Forget about "losing weight." If you follow the above tips, your body will shed weight like crazy. You won't have to worry about dieting, or portion control, or counting calories

Experiment with supplements. There are several that keep inflammation in check and help lower your blood sugar. For example…

Omega-3 fish oil is loaded with healing EPA (eicosapentaenoic acid) and DHA (docosahexaenoic acid) -- both produce profound effects on your health.

Coenzyme Q 10 boosts the way your cells produce and utilize energy. Studies show it improves outcomes of people with diabetes.

Alpha-lipoic acid is an antioxidant and essential fatty acid that helps control blood sugar, while reducing the pain of diabetic neuropathy.

Magnesium citrate helps several of your body's glucose-processing enzymes work better. Adequate magnesium levels are essential for healthy blood sugar and efficient insulin activity.

Chromium picolinate has been shown to improve insulin sensitivity by increasing the number of insulin receptors on your cells.

Vitamin D3 is very important for all of us - but especially so for people with diabetes. Studies show that it helps the body control blood sugar. And newer research indicates that it reduces the risk of developing heart disease.

(Read more about these healthy supplements - and more - at MyHealingKitchen.com.)

This is just the beginning

There are dozens and dozens of things you can do to save yourself from a lifetime of drugs, miserable complications, pain and suffering, and endless visits to doctors and hospitals.

"Time's a wastin'," as they say -- so quit putting it off.

And that's the second important message I got from Dick Clark's death…

None of us has unlimited time

Denial is a terrible temptress that fools us into believing tomorrow will always be there.

But it won't be - so don't buy into this delusion.

Psychologists tell us that people on their deathbeds are plagued by two universal regrets…

1. They wish they hadn't wasted so much of their life.

2. They're sorry they hadn't done more to help others.

This boils down to the three essential questions most people ask themselves at the end: "Did I live?" "Did I love?" "Did I matter?"

It took nearly losing my life - not once, but twice - to get me to see how precious this human life is.

That's when I stopped putting my dreams on hold. Quit taking the easy way out. And started making the most of the time I have left.

Mañana never comes

If you're smothering in a dead-end job … a bad relationship … a self-defeating habit … or a straitjacket of excuses that are keeping your stuck, now is the time to break free.

Do something right now, no matter how small, toward your dream.

Then keep doing something that moves you toward your goal every single day until it becomes a habit.

Until you develop momentum.

Until your actions take on a force of their own and can sweep you along with them.

Our world needs your success and happiness.

Your family needs your love. Your kids and grandkids need your example. Your neighbors need your help. And these challenging times need you to step up and elevate yourself.

"Now" is the only time you have. Use it or lose it.

Dick Clark's third important message:

No one gets out of this life alive, as the saying goes.

The older we get, the more we see our friends and contemporaries drop away -- reminding us that, sooner or later, our time will come too.

Will we be ready? Have we lived a life of meaning? Are we complete with our family, our friends, and most of all, with ourselves?

Just keep in mind that no matter how much we try to prepare, the end comes a big surprise.

I remember the final months with my Mom, after a long struggle with lung disease.

She denied it and fought till the very end.

At last, on the night before she passed away - in her sleep - she quit resisting and finally let go. I heard it in the quality of her breathing.

She never regained consciousness, but she had a very peaceful death.

If you're feeling a bit uncomfortable with these words - or have the urge to click away - it's only natural.

Our culture protects us from the subject. It's much easier to ignore and deny it.

But we can choose to see death as an ally and a teacher, not the enemy to fight and fear.

In Europe, they respond to death by saying: "Living well is the best revenge."

Asians honor death because it gives meaning to life - and helps them live in the moment.

I say: "Live like there's no tomorrow … make every day your best … and devote your time to what's truly important."

What do you say?

I'd like to hear what you think…

Do you have a dream or goal you've been putting off?

If you had a magic wand that could give you the perfect life, what would it look like?

What are the obstacles you believe to be blocking this perfect life?

What's one small act you can do immediately that can move you forward?

If you have diabetes, what can you give up eating or drinking right now that will improve your blood sugar? What might you substitute in its place?

Do you have a personal story of transformation that might inspire others reading this right now?

Please share your story here to give others hope.

We're all in this together - and that's the good news.