Whether or not he lets himself be persuaded to run for president, Chris Christie needs to find some way to lose weight. Like everyone else, elected officials perform best when they are in optimal health. Christie obviously is not.
You could argue that this is none of my business, but I disagree. Christie’s problem with weight ceased being a private matter when he stepped into the public arena — and it’s not something you can fail to notice. Obesity is a national epidemic whose costs are measured not just in dollars and cents but also in lives. Christie’s weight is as legitimate an issue as the smoking habit that President Obama says he has finally kicked.
On rare occasions, Christie speaks candidly about his weight. “I’m really struggling, been struggling for a long time with it,” he told CNN’s Piers Morgan in June. “And I know that it would be better for my kids if I got it more under control, and so I do feel a sense of guilt at times about that.”
Six weeks later, the New Jersey governor was briefly hospitalized for asthma — a condition that he has had for most of his life. Researchers say that many respiratory problems, including asthma, are worsened by obesity.
As he left the hospital, Christie acknowledged the connection. He described himself as “relatively healthy by all objective indicators,” but added that “if I weighed less, I’d be healthier.”
“The weight exacerbates everything,” he said.
And it does. According to the National Institutes of Health, obesity puts people at greater risk for Type 2 diabetes, coronary heart disease and stroke, certain types of cancer, sleep apnea, osteoarthritis, and gallbladder and liver disease.
The NIH estimates that nearly 34 percent of U.S. adults can be classified as “obese,” meaning they have a body mass index of more than 30. By this standard, a man who stands 5-foot-11 — Christie’s reported height — would be obese if his weight reached 215 pounds. While Christie does not disclose his weight, it appears to exceed the 286 pounds that would place him among the 5.7 percent of American adults whom NIH classifies as “extremely obese.”
I refer to obesity as an epidemic because the percentage of obese adults has doubled in the past 40 years — and childhood obesity is increasing even more rapidly. Again according to the NIH, “obesity is associated with over 112,000 excess deaths due to cardiovascular disease, over 15,000 excess deaths due to cancer, and over 35,000 excess deaths due to non-cancer, non-cardiovascular disease causes per year.”
On average, health-care costs for obese persons are 42 percent higher than costs for individuals whose weight falls into the “normal” range. It costs Medicare $1,723 more a year for an obese beneficiary than a non-obese one. For Medicaid the differential is $1,021, and for private insurers it’s $1,140. In other words, obesity is helping propel the rise in health-care costs, which are fueling the long-term rise in the national debt.
My intention is not to blame Christie for the federal government’s deficit spending — or, in fact, to blame him for his own obesity. Blame is not the point. Christie is just 49 and has four young children; politics aside, I’m sure he wants to be around to share the milestones in their lives. He prides himself on bullheaded determination and speaks often about the need for officials to display leadership. Well, Gov. Christie, lead thyself.
“I weigh too much because I eat too much,” he said after his hospitalization this summer, “and I eat some bad things, too.”
If only it were that simple. Yes, the basic arithmetic of calories ingested vs. calories expended is inescapable. But the science of weight control now takes into account the role that genetics might play, along with psychological factors that lie outside our conscious control. There are new options, including gastric surgery, beyond the dieting roller coaster — lose 40 pounds, gain it all back — that Christie says he has been riding for years.
Those who have lost weight and kept it off for extended periods, including former Arkansas governor Mike Huckabee, say they have succeeded by making proper diet and exercise part of their lives — not just unpleasant chores that have to be endured.
Politically, I disagree with Christie on almost everything. I’ll have plenty of opportunities to tell him why. Today, I’d just like to offer him a bit of unsolicited, nonpartisan, sincere advice: Eat a salad and take a walk.
By: Eugene Robinson, Opinion Writer, The Washington Post, September 29, 2011
There is no doubt that Michele Bachmann gives many of us a headache. But to attack her, as Tim Pawlenty has done in such a sexist way, as unfit to be president because of migraines is absurd.
Many of our presidents have had health problems much more serious than headaches—Roosevelt, Kennedy, Taft, to name a few.
The problem with Michele Bachmann is not her migraines, it’s what is in her head. It’s her ideas that matter.
Just as Republicans who pay attention to politics were terrified of a possible Sarah Palin nomination, they are equally petrified that Bachmann might catch on in Iowa, South Carolina, and among the Tea Party wing. Could she, in fact, squeak by and actually win the nomination? Most think not, but they are nevertheless nervous when they watch her poll numbers rise, her bank account fatten, and the attention she is getting from the “lame stream media” increase.
There is no question about her misstatements and problems with facts (John Wayne’s birthplace, associating Jimmy Carter with swine flu, Founding Fathers working “tirelessly” to end slavery, maintaining that Obama issued “one oil drilling permit” when he issued 200, etc., etc.). Check out the Pulitzer Prize winning website Politifact for a disturbing list.
The real problems we should be focusing on are her outlandish and dangerous views on the issues.
Some are becoming very well known. Her views on gay and lesbian rights, for example. She believes gays and lesbians are “part of Satan.” She and her husband have mounted campaigns against gays and lesbians, beginning in Minnesota and now on the campaign trail.
She was against TARP and proudly proclaimed her opposition in the New Hampshire debate. Most economists believe that this saved the American economy from complete meltdown and a severe depression. Plus, most of the money is being paid back, and we have a strong American auto industry because of the actions of President Bush and President Obama.
She believes we should not only abolish the entire tax code, but we should abolish the Environmental Protection Agency, the Department of Education, the Department of Energy and the Department of Commerce. (Politico 4/18/2011, among numerous other sites) This is irresponsible, shortsighted, and destructive to the United States.
I find it extraordinary that Michele Bachmann should be even considered for the office of the presidency. Her views, her lack of competence and experience, and her minimal leadership skills all are much more worrisome than her headaches. Actually, just watching her out there makes my head spin.
By: Peter Fenn, U. S. News and World Report, July 25, 2011
Worsening conditions at the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant in Japan have raised fears that people will be harmed by radiation. But experts say that in terms of public health, the Japanese have already taken precautions that should prevent the accident from becoming another Chernobyl, even if additional radiation is released.
The Japanese government has evacuated people closest to the plant, told others to stay indoors and distributed the drug potassium iodide to protect the thyroid gland from radioactive iodine.
The great tragedy of Chernobyl was an epidemic of thyroid cancer among people exposed to the radiation as children — more than 6,000 cases so far, with more expected for many years to come. There is no reason for it to be repeated in Japan.
The epidemic in Chernobyl was preventable and would probably not have happened if people had been told to stop drinking locally produced milk, which was by far the most important source of radiation. Cows ate grass contaminated by fallout from the reactors and secreted radioactive iodine in their milk.
The thyroid gland needs iodine and readily takes in the radioactive form, which can cause cancer. Children are especially vulnerable. Potassium iodide pills are meant to flood the thyroid with ordinary iodine in the hope that it will prevent the gland from taking in the radioactive type. The drug may be unnecessary if people avoid drinking the milk, but for most people, there is no harm in taking it. And if radioactive iodine has already started building up in the thyroid, the pills can help get rid of it, said Dr. Richard J. Vetter, a professor emeritus of biophysics at the Mayo Clinic in Rochester, Minn.
“It will always help if you’re within a month or so of the exposure,” Dr. Vetter said. “The later it is, the less it helps.”
If the pills are in short supply and have to be rationed, he said, they should go first to children and pregnant women. But taking the drug does not make it safe to stay near a reactor that is emitting radiation, he said. People still must evacuate.
Apart from the increase in thyroid cancer, “there is no evidence of a major public health impact attributable to radiation exposure two decades after the accident” at Chernobyl, in part because of the evacuation efforts, according to a recent United Nations report.
There are several ways to tell if someone has been exposed to radiation. A Geiger counter will detect radioactivity outside the body, on clothing, hair and skin. People found to be contaminated should be advised to undress and take a shower, and their clothing should be discarded as hazardous waste, Dr. Vetter said.
Another device, a sodium iodide detector, can be held an inch or so from the neck to check for radioactive iodine in the thyroid gland; if it detects any, the person may be given iodide pills.
In photographs from Japan, health workers appear to be screening members of the public with both Geiger counters and sodium iodide detectors.
If there is a suspicion that someone has been exposed to a large dose of radiation, the first test that doctors are likely to perform is a complete blood count, Dr. Vetter said. Abnormalities in the count — fewer white cells than would be expected, for example — can show up within a day or so, and give a ballpark estimate of how bad the exposure was.
“In Japan, it’s very unlikely that a member of the public would get a dose of radiation that would result in a decrease in any blood cells,” Dr. Vetter said. “If anyone got that kind of dose, it’s likely people who are working in the nuclear plants themselves.”
People with significantly lowered blood counts from radiation can be given drugs to stimulate their bone marrow to make more blood cells. Those drugs were not available in 1986, when a nuclear power plant in Chernobyl, Ukraine, blew up. Other drugs can be used to help rid the body of certain radioactive isotopes. But if the exposure was so high that the drugs do not help, people may need to be treated in the hospital — put into isolation and given antibiotics to protect them from infection, and possibly blood transfusions as well. A bone marrow transplant may be a last resort, but, Dr. Vetter said, “the patient is in real trouble at that point.”
Crops can be contaminated by fallout, which can cling to surface of plants at first and later be taken up by their roots.
Radioactive iodine has a half-life of only eight days — the time it takes for half of it to decay or disappear — so most of it is gone within about two months. But radioactive forms of the particulate cesium persist much longer, and in the regions affected by Chernobyl, they are still the main threats to human health and will be for decades.
Wild mushrooms, berries and animals have been found to be contaminated with cesium in areas contaminated by Chernobyl, and that is expected to last for decades. Lakes and freshwater fish may also be contaminated, but experts say ocean fish are less of a worry because the contaminants are more dispersed and diluted in the ocean than in lakes.
By: Denise Grady, The New York Times, March 15, 2011