- The Washington Times - Wednesday, August 11, 2004

When it comes to health, nobody sells employer and employee health awareness better than a famous person with an infamous affliction. TV and music legend Dick Clark tells his story of coping with type 2 diabetes and its heart disease connection.

Dick Clark’s pedigree as an entertainment industry employer is unmatched. After all, who else can say that he has worked with Rock ‘N Roll’s finest, employed the staffs of over 30 TV series and 250 evemts including the “$25,000 Pyramid,” “Bloopers and Practical Jokes” and “The Golden Globe Awards,” as well as the crews of 20 movies including classics such as “Psych-Out” and “Killers Three?”

And now, 74-year-old Dick Clark adds “Diabetes awareness spokesman” to his resume. Clark, known as “America’s oldest teenager,” was diagnosed with type two diabetes in 1994, even though he showed no symptoms. Like many people, he started a diet. But he continued on the cocktail circuit, and continued a life-long addiction to chocolate. And he continued to shun exercise, “which,” he says, “I hate with a passion.” Then, in April of this year he learned the connection between diabetes and heart disease, and he decided to speak out. Last month, I met with Dick Clark in Philadelphia. Below are some of the questions I asked him about health awareness and workstyles.

Dick, what is your advice for employers who may have employees who are diagnosed with diabetes?

I would say that it is time to get aware of the tie between diabetes and heart disease. It was April of this year that I learned that two-thirds of diabetics die from heart disease or stroke. As an employer, I realized that if I as a reasonably well-informed person don’t know about it, then I’m sure lots of employers don’t know about it either. You can call the American Association of Diabetes Educators in Chicago (312-424-2426) and get a certified educator to come talk to your people about the problem. Or you can go to www.diabetesatwork.org. It is in your best interest to get the word out to your employees because you and your employees both have a shared interest in avoiding loss of time at work.

How did you handle the news when your doctor told you that your diabetes could quickly lead to heart disease?

My first thought was ‘what can Dick Clark do to control this thing?’ I know that I can spread the word. Now I don’t want to be political about this. Health is an across-the-board problem.

It seems that more celebrities are being much more open about their diseases these days. Witness Michael J. Fox and his Parkinson’s, Larry King and his heart disease, Shawn Colvin and her depression, and many others. In your opinion, why are so many in Hollywood so open now when they had been so disease-phobic in the past?

There is a new openness. It is prevalent in all our lives. Years ago we didn’t talk about these things. Celebrity is something that comes with a great responsibility, especially when you can help someone avoid great danger. The disease I am talking about is manageable if you get the right education. So it is important to be open.

What part of your own message of prevention are you taking most seriously?

Personally, I am dieting. And even though it is horrific, I am exercising. I think exercise is the most boring thing in life. If I didn’t have a TV on I couldn’t do it every day. I exercise 7 days a week 20 minutes a day. That’s as long as my attention span.

How have you been able to change your eating habits?

Well, I was from the generation that believes in the clean plate club, we eat everything on our plate. I always find it difficult to leave food behind. And in my youth I drank a great deal. Now I just believe in moderation in all things.

What finally made you pay attention to the need to stay healthy? After all, you were first diagnosed with diabetes in 1994.

It was the heart disease connection that grabbed my attention. People don’t know what they don’t know. I was a classic example of that.

Jay Whitehead is America’s most-read, most-watched and most-listened-to expert on workstyles. Email your questions to [email protected]

Listen to Jay Whitehead on web-radio every Tuesday 5pm to 6pm EST when he hosts Won on Won with Whitehead on www.businessamericaradio.com. This week the guest will be YRB Magazine editor, Courtney Cox on the influence of music and fashion in our culture. Email your questions in advance to [email protected]

Stay tuned. Jay Whitehead’s TrumpOnomics column returns on Monday, September 6, 2004 and will preview the 18 candidates for The Apprentice 2!

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