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I have been a registered nurse, nurse practitioner and most importantly a patient advocate for over 20 years. I have worked in hospitals, homes and as a private consultant, always teaching patients how to speak up for themselves and to make well informed healthcare decisions that are right for them and help them to avoid all types of Medical Errors. The many things I have seen in healthcare led me write "What Did the Doctor Just Say." In it are all the steps every patient needs to take to remain safe in the healthcare system and avoid medical errors. My personal goal is help to save 100,000 people from the horrors of a medical error and I wrote What Did the Doctor Just Say? to help make that happen.

Thursday, April 8, 2010

Should There Be an Obesity Tax?


The conversation around obesity is becoming very heated and lively debate. One radio interview host I spoke with recently suggested there be a fat tax. His point was that heavy people have many more health problems than do thin people and that they should pay their "fair share" of healthcare cost by having taxes and fines imposed upon them. 

Clearly tempers are flaring (an not just about obesity) in our land as the healthcare debate rages on and we look at ways to cut cost. 

I do not think any group should be taxed or penalized. Our health issues are much to complicated to be solved by taxes.  Taxes do not address the reasons why we are over weight. They do not address emotional eating, food addiction, cultural foods that lead to obesity, or the cheapness of fatty foods that make them more attractive to the young and the poor. 

Fortunately or unfortunately my opinions do not set policy in our nation and the obesity tax is an active discussion especially in NY state where they are considering taxing sodas and other sugary drinks to reduce their consumption and the pounds associated with high calorie drinks. This is effectively and obesity tax and there may be others to follow.

As healthcare costs continue to rise and we are forced to buy health with the young and old, fat and thin all dividing the cost equally the argument is sure to become even more dynamic because it is well documented that heavy people are more likely to health serious and costly health problems that increase the costs of providing care to everyone in the nation, with some saying those that have more risk of becoming ill (the obese and the elderly) should pay more for insurance they are more likely to use.  Some of the problems overweight people are more likely to have are:  

 Heart Disease and Stroke

Heart disease and stroke are the leading causes of death and disability for people in the U.S. Overweight people are twice as likely to have high blood pressure, a major risk factor for heart disease and stroke, than people who are not overweight. Overweight people are more likely to have very high blood levels of cholesterol which can also lead to heart disease. Being overweight also contributes to chest pain and sudden death from heart disease or stroke without any signs or symptoms.
Obesity Is Linked to Diabetes
Type 2 diabetes is a major cause of early death, heart disease, stroke, and blindness. More than 80% of cases of type 2 diabetes can be attributed to being overweight or obese.  
Obesity and Cancer Are Linked
Being obese also increases the risk of dying from cancer. In women, these include cancer of the uterus, gallbladder, cervix, ovary, breast, and colon. Overweight men are at higher risk for developing colorectal cancer and prostate cancer.  
Obesity Is Related to Gallbladder Disease

Your risk of gallbladder disease and gallstones is increased if you are overweight.  
Obesity Can Cause Osteoarthritis?
Osteoarthritis is a common joint condition that most often affects the knee, hip, and lower back joints. Carrying extra pounds places extra pressure on these joints and wears away the cartilage (tissue that cushions the joints) that normally protects them. Weight loss can decrease stress on the knees, hips, and lower back and may improve the symptoms of osteoarthritis.

Obesity Is Linked to Gout

Gout is a disease that affects the joints that is caused by high levels of a substance called uric acid in the blood. The large amount of uric acid can form into solid or crystal-like masses that deposit in the joints. Gout is more common in overweight people and the risk of developing the disorder increases with higher body weights.
Obesity Is Linked to Sleep Apnea?
Sleep apnea can cause a person to snore heavily and to stop breathing for short periods during sleep. Sleep apnea may cause daytime sleepiness and even heart failure. The risk for sleep apnea increases as body weight increases.  
The good news is that by decreasing your weight be 10-20% you can decrease your chances of having serious consequences of obesity, of course the question then becomes how do I do that. In a future post I will discuss weight loss strategies. In the meantime, we all know exercise, calorie reduction, decreasing stress and increasing water intake will help to take off the pounds, good luck America

By Lynn R. Parker and WebMD

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