DRHOOK- Fat facts: Obesity is costing the US billions

the handsome doctor John Hong of Charlottesville

Cindy Crawford is a very smart supermodel. Is that an oxymoron? She married Richard Gere: smart Hollywood move. She was the #1 paid human mannequin. (I would love to be paid $10,000 to walk down a runway in underwear– ummm, let me think about that more.) 

She endorsed many products to make millions of dollars. Remember when she drank Pepsi in the commercials? I wondered how many seconds later she spit it out. I thought, "No way can she be that skinny and fit and drink something so high in calories from sugar and high fructose corn syrup!" I figured she would have advertised Diet Pepsi!

High calories can be so taxing— should they be taxed?

According to New York City health commissioner Dr. Thomas R. Frieden, sugar-sweetened beverages should be taxed just as tobacco is. I read an article years ago to "Tax Twinkies" because all the processed sugared foods are contributing to this nation's obesity crisis. Yes, Blanche, crisis! 

In 1998, this country spent $74 biiiillion (Carl Sagan enunciation) on medical costs of obesity; in 2008 it ballooned to $147 billion. Do you hear the US government doing anything about obesity to reduce health care costs? (But then again, the President, Senate, Congress, yadda yadda yadda, are all controlled by money from the health insurance companies and pharmaceutical industries. So God forbid stepping on the toes of the food and beverage industries.) 

Obese people spend 42 percent more for health care than those who are at normal weight. With one-third of American adults weighing in at obese levels, our health care system has dropped a bomb. Another one-third of Americans are overweight, and the rate of obesity continues to climb. (I'm humming "Elbow Room," from School House Rock, because we're going to run out of room in places from airplanes to movie theaters.)

Americans are living longer than before (although recent studies point out we might have jumped the shark), but at what cost? Medicine, medicine everywhere—

Have you noticed all the ads for diabetic medicines and supplies? With over 25 million Americans with diabetes and over 50 million Americans with pre-diabetes, gas stations ought to carry diabetic supplies. "Fill up with our high octane gas and check your blood sugar before you buy our delicious kettle corn and soda!" 

Heart disease costs a lot of money as well, from stress tests to open heart surgery. Cholesterol-lowering medicines, blood pressure medicines, aspirin, and so forth would do a number on the Tin Man in The Wizard of Oz. 

"Dorothy, can you oil up my frozen shoulder and give me some nitroglycerin for my heart?"'

Tired of being tired? Out-of-shape people often complain of aches and fatigue. Obstructive sleep apnea can make someone feel like she pulled an "all nighter" for an exam– every day. Men with size 17.5" collar or more are at risk for this apnea because the soft tissue of the neck blocks the airway. And let me tell you, when I buy dress shirts, I get the "hand-me-down" extra fabric from the large shirts that dominate the clothing industry. I can't even buy pants in my waist size in most stores. 

I don't see America becoming a slimmer nation. I've lost quite a few patients whose parting words are, "I won't ever exercise. I'll kill anyone who get between my cookies and me. Just give me a pill!" 

Maybe I should give them Cindy Crawford's number so she can tell them her secret.


Dr. Hook cracks a joke or two, but he's a renowned physician with a local practice and an interesting website, drjohnhong.com. Email him with your questions.