Fighting Obesity with the Help of Your Doctor

 In Primary Care

Obesity is not just a cosmetic concern. It is one of the leading causes of preventable illness and death in the U.S. Obesity is linked to heart disease, stroke, diabetes and certain cancers. The obesity rate is increasing each year, with research showing that nearly three out of four U.S adults are obese.

People struggling with obesity often feel uncomfortable or ashamed to see a doctor, making it the most undertreated chronic disease. If you are fighting obesity, help is available from your primary care physician. You do not have to face the fight alone. You can work towards maintaining a healthy weight for your age and body type.

The difference between obese and overweight

Obesity is classified using a calculation of Body Mass Index, or BMI, as a benchmark. BMI is a measurement using weight and height to determine if a person is underweight, healthy, overweight or obese.

A healthy BMI range is between 18.5 and 24.9. An adult who is overweight but not obese will fall into the 25 to 29.9 range. An overweight person has more body fat than is considered normal for that height, age and sex. There are risk factors related to being overweight, but they are not as severe as someone who is considered obese.

The three ranges indicating obesity were created to assess levels of health risk. They are:

  • Class 1 (low risk) obesity: 30.0 to 34.9
  • Class 2 (moderate risk) obesity: 35.0 to 39.9
  • Class 3 (high-risk) obesity: equal to or greater than 40.0

A high BMI does not always equal obesity. People with muscles may have a higher BMI because muscle tissue weighs more than fat.

Risk factors for obesity

The lifestyle habits of Americans contribute to the higher rates of obesity. People often prefer sedentary activities like watching television or playing video games instead of physical activity like bicycling or hiking. Busy families find it easier to get takeout than to cook healthy meals at home. Adults in the workforce may have long commutes and desk jobs that leave them with little time or energy to exercise.

Genetics can also factor into the likelihood of someone becoming obese. People with immediate family members who are obese may have inherited metabolic disorders. It can also be as simple as families having the same views on food that are passed down from generation to generation.

Someone suffering from psychological conditions, like depression or anxiety, may not take care of their own basic needs. Overeating or sleeping too much can lead to excessive weight gain.

Your primary care physician can assess your risk factors to see what may be contributing to obesity. Then he or she will create a plan to help you achieve a healthy weight.

Obesity’s negative impact on health

Obesity increases the risk of several diseases and chronic health conditions. Excess weight affects nearly every part of the body, from internal organs to bones and joints. It can also have negative consequences on mental health. Here are a few of the health risks associated with obesity:

  • Diabetes – Nearly eight out of 10 people with type 2 diabetes are obese.
  • Cardiovascular disease – High cholesterol and blood pressure can cause coronary heart disease and heart failure.
  • Stroke – High blood pressure, which is common among the obese, is the leading cause of stroke.
  • Cancer – Colon, breast, kidney, esophagus and other types of cancer have been linked to obesity because of high insulin levels and prolonged inflammation.
  • Osteoarthritis – Increased weight on the bones and joints can cause chronic pain and inflammation in the knees and back.
  • Sleep apnea – Breathing issues during sleep are linked to being overweight.
  • Depression – The correlation is unclear, but it can be linked in two ways: People may be depressed because of their weight, or they may gain weight because they are depressed.

How to get started in fighting obesity

Obesity is often too overwhelming to take on alone. There is not a one-size-fits-all approach to losing weight. A primary care physician can help a patient identify unhealthy habits or medical conditions contributing to obesity and provide a specific treatment.

Your primary care physician will screen for related diseases, perform blood work and assess other health issues. Reviewing food intake, activity level, genetics and environmental factors can also determine if they are contributing to excess weight.

female fighting obesity with exercise

Getting help from your doctor

Obesity is a public health concern that should not be dismissed. It is also a personal matter. The primary care physicians at Personalized Hematology-Oncology & Primary Care believe that seeking help from a doctor for obesity should not carry a stigma. Fighting obesity can be a partnership between a doctor and patient fostered through compassion and empathy.

Do not be afraid to ask for help. If you had a broken arm, you would seek medical attention. Obesity is a chronic condition that should be addressed with the same urgency. Your primary care physician can help you address and fight obesity.

If you are struggling with obesity or have questions about how to improve your overall health, make an appointment with a primary care physician. Our personalized healthcare practice offers a range of medical expertise that give patients with obesity the tools they need to be proactive in improving their health.

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