Doctors Requested To Calculate BMI Of Their Patients

John Neumann for

Do you assume your weight is within an acceptable range if your doctor doesn´t bring it up? A government panel renewed a recommendation for every adult to be screened for obesity during checkups, suggesting more physicians should be routinely calculating their patients´ body mass index (BMI).

“We found that some weight-loss programs do work, and often the gateway to finding the right program can be through your physician,” David Grossman, a member of the US Preventive Services Task Force and medical director of preventive care at Group Health Cooperative in Seattle, told USA Today.

Patients “should be asking what their BMI is, and tracking that over time,” Grossman suggests. The new guidelines don´t spell out how often this should be done, but he suggests at least once a year.

Thirty-six percent of adults in this country are obese, which puts them at an increased risk of type 2 diabetes, heart disease, stroke, some types of cancer, sleep apnea and many other debilitating and chronic illnesses, reports USA Today’s Nanci Hellmich. Recent projections suggest that 42 percent of Americans may end up obese by 2030 if something isn´t done to reverse the trend.

Considering the national anxiety about our growing waistlines, the advice appears to be easy to implement. Seventeen percent of children and teens are obese and heading towards an entire lifetime of the effects of obesity, reports the Associated Press (AP). The task force recommends adult obesity screening previously, and similar guidelines urge tracking whether youngsters are putting on too many pounds.

The task force reviewed 58 weight-loss studies and found that there is adequate scientific evidence to show that moderate to high-intensity comprehensive behavioral weight-loss programs with 12 to 26 sessions in the first year can help people regain a proper BMI.

Programs that include both group and individual sessions and focus on setting weight-loss goals, improving diet and physical activity, and helping patients monitor food intake and exercise were generally the best at returning patients to a healthy weight.

“These types of programs really focus on changing your lifestyle,” Grossman told Hellmich. Physicians can refer patients to registered dietitians, exercise physiologists, personal trainers and others who direct weight-loss programs, he says. “Some commercial and non-profit weight-management programs offer many of these features.”

However, with even the best intentions of the physician and patient, insurance companies do not pay for all the suggested interventions, and comprehensive programs aren´t available everywhere, Dr. Scott Kahan of George Washington University and the STOP Obesity Alliance, told the AP.

Kahan operates a clinic that provides a medical, psychological and nutritional evaluation before tailoring a plan. In other programs, primary care doctors may offer some counseling and send patients to nutritionists or other specialists for extra help.

Kahan also mentioned that, “doctors tend to shoo away people who have obesity. They say, `Don´t come back to me and tell me your back hurts or you have acid reflux or high cholesterol until you will do something about it.´”

Thomas Wadden, director of the Center for Weight and Eating Disorders at the University of Pennsylvania´s Perelman School of Medicine, told USA Today, “The task force´s recommendations are right on target. However, before primary-care doctors tell all obese patients that they need to lose weight – which most are painfully aware of – they should ask patients, ℠What are your thoughts about your weight?´

“Doctors should listen respectfully, offer assistance to those who wish to lose weight and educate others about the relationship between their weight and health.”

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