Strategies for helping obese patients

A recent study suggests class III obesity shortens life span by 6.5 to 13.7 years.

Treat for components that are also stroke risk factors.
Treat for components that are also stroke risk factors.

When discussing a change of habit with your patients, I know it can feel like an ongoing battle, especially when it comes to diet and exercise. Unfortunately, practitioners see an increase in obesity and its associated diseases every day.

As health-care providers, we need to find ways to help these patients deal with their weight issues.

Class III obesity, defined as a body mass index of 40.0-59.9 kg/m², affects 6% of Americans. Obesity can lead to cardiovascular disease, cancer, diabetes and other diseases. It is a nation wide epidemic affecting children as well as adult patients.

The results of a pooled analysis of 20 prospective studies, including over 9, 500 adults with class III obesity and over 300,000 normal-weight adults, produced some startling statistics. Compared with normal weight patients, the estimated loss of life can range 6.5 to13.7 years for those that are obese. What an important fact to share with your patients!

Heart disease was the major reason of excess death among these patients, followed by cancer and diabetes. Here are some of my ideas for helping address weight-issues with patients:

Handouts and brochures

Make brochures and handouts available for your patients. This gives them something to take home and read. Although it may sit on their counter for a while, it is a constant reminder for patients that need to address weight issues.

Volunteer space in your office for a weight-loss program

Invite a health coach or a program like Weight Watchers to come in once a week to meet with patients. Or, if you have lots of energy, come up with your own program.

Blog about weight loss

Every doctor's office has a web site. Use this to your advantage. Start a blog! If possible, have some type of interactive page that will allow patients to post their progress.

Exercise programs

Invite a yoga instructor or other exercise professional to teach classes or have discussions about exercise. These professionals can be very helpful!

Most importantly, talk to your patients. Don't ignore the problem!

I had a patient once tell me that she had seen a multitude of providers for various health issues, and not one of them brought up the subject of her weight. She said "I know I am fat! I need someone to help me form some kind of plan. Obviously, I haven't done such a good job on my own!" It reminded me that we sometimes assume someone else is handling the problem.

I intend to share the results of this recent study with my patients. I hope you will too!

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