Monthly Archives: February 2019

The Obesity Epidemic Revisited

The Obesity Epidemic Revisited

This topic has been explored in previous posts, but it one that is worth visiting often as there are no actions being taken to reverse the negative trend. Over 1/3 of Americans are obese and continue to grow more obese. Make no mistake, this disease is within each individual’s control except in very rare cases. There is no question that obesity impairs quality of life and that it contributes to out of control healthcare costs.

You may wonder, as I have, what is being done nationally to reverse the trend? The answer comes in the form of “Health Education”. While not all of the billions of this taxpayer money is spent on combating obesity a substantial portion is. The message of healthy eating, caloric restriction & exercise has been well communicated for the last several decades. The real question is why do we continue to spend money on the same message without achieving any significant results.

The solution to obesity is extremely simple. Cut back caloric intake to under 2,500 calories per day and initiate 30 minutes a day of “effective” exercise. If so, then what is the issue? It seems that we do not have the individual will power to reduce food consumption and we do not have the discipline to set aside 30 minutes a day for an exercise program. No amount of health education can resolve this dilemma. Humans tend to sacrifice longer term benefits for short term gratification. In that regard we Americans are number one.

There is an excellent you tube video that I watch at least once a year and it reinforces why I get up extra early each day for jog. I encourage everyone to watch, digest & implement the message. It will change your life! See at: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=aUaInS6HIGo.

Most people have no problem identifying that they are overweight, but how do we know if we have become obese? The BMI (body mass index) is typically used to measure obesity. This can be calculated by some digital scales, estimated by charts available on the Internet or can be calculated by you physician. While the ideal BMI will vary by age a BMI that exceeds the 30 – 35 range is determined to indicate obesity. BMI for a healthy individual typically lies in the 15 – 20 range, with 20 – 30 being overweight. Competitive athletes typical BMI lies in the 10 – 15 range.

The good news is that you can implement a program that only has a cost in time and actually will save money if you are able to reduce caloric intake. Walking is a great way to start. Regardless of a person’s degree of Obesity they should be able to walk at a pace of 5 KPH (about 3 MPH). They may not be able to maintain this pace for 30 minutes, but no worries. Just start doing as much time as you can without overstressing. One method is to add 1 minute each day to your time at a consistent pace, or one minute every other day. The key is to not skip a day. In short order you will find that you are able to achieve the pace for 30 minutes. Once that goal is achieved, the new goal will be to slowly increase your pace until you are able to achieve a consistent pace of 6 KPH (about 3.6 MPH). This pace will typically elevate your heart rate to 50% above your heart rate at rest. This is the level that will result in the best benefit to you heart, immune system & overall health.

This final comment will not win me any new friends. Since obesity is within our control and since it places an undue burden on the taxpayer there should be financial consequences for lack of control. My view is that obese individuals should have to bear an increased burden of the cost of healthcare.

Rank               State                                                  Obesity Rate

1 West Virginia 38.1% +/- 1.7%
2 Mississippi 37.3% +/- 2.0%
3 Oklahoma 36.5% +/- 1.6%
4 Iowa 36.4% +/- 1.3%
5 Alabama 36.3% +/- 1.6%
6 Louisiana 36.2% +/- 1.8%
7 Arkansas 35.0% +/- 2.4%
8 Kentucky 34.3% +/- 1.7%
9 Alaska 34.2% +/- 2.9%
10 South Carolina 34.1% +/- 1.3%
11 Ohio 33.8% +/- 1.3%
12 Indiana 33.6% +/- 1.1%
13 North Dakota 33.2% +/- 1.6%
14 Texas 33.0% +/- 1.8%
15 Nebraska 32.8% +/- 1.2%

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Healthcare Costs & the Budget Deficit

Healthcare Costs & the Budget Deficit

I have posted numerous comments regarding the out of control cost of healthcare in our country, the broken system and at the same time the decline in quality of care. A quick review of the facts reveals that we have by far the highest per capita cost among all of the countries on earth. The average is almost triple that of the average for European Countries. The high cost exists in all areas: Hospital stays, prescription drugs, physician visits, surgery, medical equipment, physicians’ education, etc. At the same time there are 35 countries that are ranked higher than the US in quality of care by the World Health Organization. Our healthcare system is broken and merely tweaking it will not resolve the issue. It is frustrating that we refuse to evaluate other systems that are costing much less while providing a superior level of service.

Most civilized countries consider decent healthcare a right of citizenship and not a privilege. In most the cost is shared by the taxpayer through a single payer system similar to Medicare. While this system is likely a step in the right direction it would reduce only some of the costs. We still need to reduce costs in the area of physician education, prescription drugs, physician & surgery fees, hospital costs, our obesity epidemic and others. Specifics on these areas are addressed in earlier posts.

The per capita cost for healthcare currently exceeds $10,000. Imagine a young family of four with both adults working at $10 per hour. Let’s assume they have no tax burden. If they were required to pay their fair share of our healthcare system cost they would have virtually nothing left for subsistence. Now consider the median family income for a middle-class family of four which stands at $ 58,000. After paying taxes and their fair share of healthcare burden they end up with about $15,000 to cover housing, food, insurances, transportation, clothing, utilities, communications, entertainment, etc. How do they manage it?

How does this cost, which is currently accelerating, impact the national budget? The majority of healthcare cost is still being subsidized by the government. It is worth noting that the % paid by the citizen/consumer has increased substantially over the past several decades. Regardless, the cost of Medicare, Medicaid, Health Education and other subsidies will total about $1.7 trillion for 2018. About 2/3ds of this is subsidized by the government with the reminder paid via co-pays and private insurance premiums. The healthcare industry is by far the largest in the US and represents over 8% of GDP. It is also more than double the projected 2018 budget deficit!!

If the high cost of providing healthcare is scary (and it is) then the its impact on future costs is horrific. The current level of unfunded lability for future healthcare is enormous, currently standing at almost $28 trillion! If we could match the European average per capita healthcare cost here this action alone would balance our budget and provide a surplus and go a long way in mitigating future liabilities.

Great Teachers – Life Lessons

Great Teachers – Life Lessons 

I am in awe of the great teachers from our history and the incredible life lessons that they have provided. I am frustrated by the lack of application of this valuable lesson by so many of today’s leaders.

Beginning with the teachings of Siddhartha (Gautama Buddha) circa 6 – 5th century BCE. and his traditions carried on the lineage of the Dali Lama. His was a message of the four noble truths: In short form, the four truths are dukkha, samudaya (“arising,” “coming together”), nirodha (“cessation,” “confinement”), and marga, the path leading to cessation.[1

The origins of Hinduism pre-dates even Siddhartha and is not attributable to any one teacher. However, the “way of life” teaching contains a valuable life lesson. The proper goals or aims of human life, namely Dharma (ethics/duties), Artha (prosperity/work), Kama (desires/passions) and Moksha (liberation/freedom from the cycle of death and rebirth/salvation);[17][18] karma (action, intent and consequences), Saṃsāra (cycle of death and rebirth), and the various Yogas (paths or practices to attain moksha).

Jesus of Nazareth, the Jewish reformer, sought to modify the belief of a vengeful deity with one that would have us aspire to emulate the “best” in humanity through faith, hope & love.  As the early church lost site of this lesson others arose to provide an alternative path, but one that tended focus on correcting abuses and not so much on a return to the life lesson. Both Muhammad (c. 570–8 June 632 CE) & Martin Luther’s reformation of 1517 are examples of movements intended to morally adjust life’s path.

In more recent times we have great teaching examples. Mahatma Gandhi is a prime example. He lived as he taught. His actions spoke loud of a moral code. Mother Theresa was another example of one who lived as she believed. The current Dali Lama is yet another.

All of these teachers held one belief in common and we know it as the Golden Rule. “Do unto others as you would have them do unto you”. This simple lesson solves all of the world’s issues. It knows no geographic of political boundaries. It is not modified or limited by race, creed or color. If only we could treat each other with respect, wouldn’t it be a wonderful world.