Real medical reform: Get off your butt

In my last post on medical insurance reform I said, at the end, that of course there’s also the personal responsibility thing — if we’d lose weight and exercise more, we’d all cost the medical system less.

Great minds think alike, apparently: here’s an op-ed piece in the LA times (CLICK!) by an actual doctor who sees actual patients and who says precisely the same thing: Most of what ails us is directly related to what we put in our mouths and the fact that we don’t exercise.

I see this first hand — I have a good friend who, being 70, had hip replacement surgery a couple of years ago. He had to do it — his hip made it hard for him to do 100-mile bicycle rides. He did them, he just didn’t enjoy them much.

When he went into the hospital they asked him what meds he took. “None,” was his reply. No blood pressure meds, no cholesterol meds, no diabetes meds, no nothing beyond over the counter pain pills like everyone else takes.

After his surgery he was a week-ahead of where they said he should be on recovery, too. He healed faster, was up and around again sooner, had no problems and, now, beyond a slight limp, hikes with his dogs and rides his bicycle.

“Not all of us have had hip surery!” I like to tell him when I’m trying to keep up.

Ditto others, and ditto me. I’m 60, been riding for 15 years, and still don’t take any meds beyond my asthma stuff which, fortunately for me, is not that severe.

At the end of this op-ed the writer suggest perhaps rewards for people who exercise — a tax break for people with a low body mass index, or something. Good idea but, obviously, would never pass because it would mean two thirds of the population would have to pay more, or would not get the breaks. A proposal that fat people pay higher airplane fees ran into similar problems — screams of discrimination abounded, even though those folk are using twice as much plane fuel as I do.

The fact that that two thirds pays more now — for food, for medical care, for medicine, for earlier funerals, for reinforced beds and chairs — is something you could never get the government to do because it would really set off all the folks who think government is too big. 

It is also not an argument that anyone listens to. Why can I say that?

Because, well, look around. Look at all the overweight people who are paying now, in money and hindered lives. They know, they don’t do anything about it. Some are victims of food addiction (yes, just like drugs and booze) but many are not. Until we have some sort of cultural turn-around, the situation is not going to change.

Meanwhile, unplug your TV and take a walk with your kids. Can’t hurt, might help.

Walk where? Around the block, or wherever. Try the local cemetery.  There are probably 3,000 people living within a quarter mile of the Aultorest Cemetery near me, but Gimli and I very rarely see more than one or two folk on our daily walks (two miles) and if a dozen a day use it — and the owners don’t mind at all — I’d be amazed.

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8 Responses to Real medical reform: Get off your butt

  1. tkay says:

    Very well said, Charles! Health care costs could be cut dramatically if people would take better care of themselves. Additionally, their quality of life would be better, too.

    Part of the problem, as I see it, is that our society is all about quick fixes. One of the hardest (and best) lessons I’ve had to learn is that dieting doesn’t work in the long term. Rather, weight loss and fitness need to be lifestyle choices.

  2. Good point. About 10 days ago my fat butt and beer belly were perched on the summit of Middle Teton. And I’ll be one of the most “elderly” to make the ascent this season.

    As we carried our packs out the next day I paused to visit with a group headed upwards (they had questions about a climbing route). There was some comment about how large my pack was, which was easily explained by the fact that we were in the Tetons for five days. But I just said, “It’s for the beer. We’ve run out so we’re heading out.”

    Response: “You were dumb enough to carry beer!” He was a Mormon from Ogden. And the only rude person I met in five days.

  3. just me says:

    Holy cats. I doesn’t seem to matter what the subject is, someone has to start belittling someone else’s religion. Sheesh! Can’t we just all get along? I don’t think that if a Baptist or Buddhist had made a comment like that to me I’d have included it in my story. How about simply, “Response: ‘You were dumb enough to carry beer!’ He was the only rude person I met in five days.”?

    Let there be peace on earth and let it begin with me.

  4. mark shenefelt says:

    So funny how quickly a thread can be hijacked. Should I start ranting about Bush and Obama and Clinton and Nazis? ;) … rude Mormon hikers? ;)

    No, let’s get back on subject.

    Since I was a young adult, I’ve had a propensity to pack on pounds. I’ve found that the best way for me to keep it off has been regular exercise. Even as jacked up as I am half of the time with stupid medical problems, I force myself outside. This week I jogged two miles, five days in a row. I’m psyching myself up for a bike ride today. If I work out all the time, I can gobble a cheeseburger without as much remorse.

    Move or die, people.

  5. Catherine Burt says:

    It is true that weight bearing exercise is one of the best things a person can do… however, a “low BMI” is not a good indicator of overall heath. BMI itself is not even a reliable indicator of overweightness. If my BMI ever got “low,” it would likely mean that I’m in chemo or something. I really shudder to think that weight, rather than health, would become a benchmark for any kind of tax incentive or insurance break.

    Obesity is another story, though, and is strongly linked with type 2 diabetes… which has replaced smoking as the #1 cause of preventable death in the US. And of course airlines are justified in charging extra if someone can’t fit in their seat and have to occupy part of the seat next to them (not talking about the very tall folks, but the very wide ones).

  6. ctrentelman says:

    You’re a beautiful person Catherine, don’t ever let anyone tell you different.
    yeah, BMI is really not reliable — i have a relative who qualified for state help paying for a gym membership based on his bmi, but he’s a weight lifter and has bulked up, so his bmi is off kilter from that. If he ever quits weight lifting, and all that muscle turns to fat, he’s going to have trouble.

    Bicycle riders come in all shapes and sizes, but can still ride 50 miles a day. Generally speaking, the folk I see at the MS 150 are more slender than the general population, but there are enough beer guts (including on me) to put the lie to the idea that a good athlete is always skinny.

    So what would be a good measure? Anyone got any suggestions?

  7. Catherine Burt says:

    Haha thanks Charlie! Well… our society sets people up to be overweight/obese and then punishes them for it. We make it cheap and convenient to eat high calorie/low nutrient/processed foods, and couple it with a sedentary lifestyle (for many of us).

    It defies all logic, good sense, and economics IMO, why juice should cost more than soda, and soy, almond and rice milk cost more than dairy, and veggie burgers cost more than beef. Here is a recent article from Time Magazine that goes into some detail on this problem,8599,1917458,00.html

    AND… we need to reform the public school lunch program. Children are not being given a fair start at good nutrition. Did you know that the schools can’t sell water as a drink with lunch, because the USDA has deemed it non-nutritional? But you can get sugary drinks, chocolate milk, and soda…

    I have no problem taxing universally agreed junk food either, if there is a cost problem making healthy food cheaper or feeding school children decent lunches.

  8. Charles Trentelman says:

    My wife the sociologist and i had a long talk about this — she accepts the personal responsibility thing but, being a sociologist, she is well able to see the many ways that society – and the way our culture socializes us — makes these problems inevitable.

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