What you need to know about obesity

Obesity is a term used for children and adults who are at an unhealthy weight. It is not the same as being overweight and is a higher level of carrying too much weight compared to your height. It is considered a chronic medical condition with excessive body fat and poses a number of threats to your health. Obesity is often defined more specifically by being over a certain body mass index (BMI). Everyone has a unique BMI that shows where you are on a scale of underweight to morbidly obese.

Being obese is somewhere in the middle of the scale where your BMI is 30 or more. Someone who is overweight is between 25 and 29.9 on the BMI scale while someone morbidly obese is 40 or over. According to MedicineNet.com, over 30% of adults in the United States are currently obese and 20-25% of children are obese. While these statistics are startling, the good news is you have different treatment options. Weight management is done with weight loss programs, weight loss medications, home treatment and even surgery if you require it.

Risk Factors of Obesity

There are many complications associated with being obese and medical conditions you could develop as a result of the added fat. The first thing you should be aware of is that obese increases your risk of dying at a younger age. Around 300,000 deaths each year are related to obesity. If you are obese, you could become resistant to insulin, develop diabetes or heart disease, have any number of cardiovascular problems, get high blood pressure, high cholesterol, have a stroke or heart attack, and increase your risk of getting cancer, osteoarthritis, sleep apnea, gallstones and gout.

Some people are at a higher risk for developing obesity than others. Children who are born to parents who are obese are at a higher risk because it can be genetic. Also, children who are overweight starting at a young age have a higher risk of maintaining the condition through adulthood. Also, if you are African American or Hispanic, you fit a high-risk category as it is more common with these nationalities. Additionally, having an eating disorder, mental health disorder, polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS), Cushings syndrome or hypothyroidism, you have a risk of becoming obese.

Symptoms, Signs and Tests of Obesity

If you suspect you may be obese, you should consult a doctor right away. The sooner you get help with losing weight; the better off you will be in the long run. Since many complications and adverse health effects are associated with being obese, losing weight and becoming healthy should be your top priority. Your doctor will check your current weight and height to calculate your body mass index, take measurements and ask you a series of questions about medications youre taking, your lifestyle, what you eat on a typical day and your medical history. A series of tests will also be performed to determine if a medical condition may be the source of your obesity, such as lower-than-average metabolism, diabetes, hypothyroidism or PCOS. Your doctor will also want to calculate how much body fat you have compared to your muscle mass.

Body Mass Index

Body mass index (BMI) as mentioned previously is used to determine whether someone is at a healthy weight, overweight, underweight or in the obese category. It actually goes all the way up to morbidly obese and super obese. BMI is calculated using your current weight and your height in inches. This is a screening tool that helps doctors find out how much your weight is affecting your overall health. A BMI of 18.5 or less is underweight, 18.6 to 24.9 is healthy, 25 to 29.9 is overweight, 30 to 39 is obese, 40 to 49 is morbidly obese and 50 or more is super obese.

Signs of Obesity

Another way to determine whether or not you are obese is by looking at other signs you might have. Many people who are obese tend to have joint and muscle pain, dizziness, frequent headaches, gastrointestinal issues, heart palpitations, sleep apnea, fatigue, shortness of breath and the inability to be physically active without becoming exhausted. However take these signs with a grain of salt; they arent enough to diagnose obesity and may occur in people overweight or who are at a healthy weight. The best way to find out if you are obese and the cause of the extra weight is to have a physical exam by a doctor. They will help you with weight control and to start a weight loss program that is right for you.

Treatment, Drugs and Prevention of Obesity

There are many different methods of treatment for obesity, including medical and drug treatment, home treatment, surgery and going to a local weight loss center. Medical treatment is necessary for some obese individuals who are not able to lose weight on their own. Medical treatments include surgery and weight loss drugs.

Weight Loss Surgery

The two most common types of weight loss surgery are gastric bypass surgery and laparoscopic gastric banding, with a third less common option being a sleeve gastrectomy. These surgeries have their pros and cons and you should speak to your doctor about the risks and benefits. Keep in mind if you decide to get weight loss surgery, it is a long process and requires you to stick to a healthy diet and fitness routine after the surgery. It is not a quick-fix and requires a lifelong commitment.

Anti-Obesity Medications Injections

You can also get treated with medications, including anti-obesity medications and appetite suppressant drugs. One medication that helps with weight loss is actually an injection; called the lipotropic B12 injection. This is a fat-burning injection that includes B12 vitamins and amino acids. It will help your body burn fat more quickly and speed up your metabolism. You can also start an HCG diet, which uses pharmaceutical grade Human Chorionic Gonadotropic (HCG) which is a hormone that is naturally produced in women. This diet uses HCG to control your metabolism and lose weight in the process.

Another injection to help with treating obesity is the L-carnitine injection which is a supplement that can help transport fat into cells for producing more energy. It also speeds up your metabolism and helps promote weight loss. Finally, there is an FDA-approved appetite suppressant called Phentermine. This is a pill available in 37.mg pills that will help you improve your mood and control your appetite. Side effects from taking Phentermine include insomnia, high blood pressure, headache, constipation and nervousness.

Weight Loss Program

Perhaps one of the best treatment options is joining a weight loss program offered by a medical center or weight loss center. These programs combine different types of treatments for obesity, including learning about proper nutrition, exercise and fitness programs and treating underlying conditions causing obesity such as mental health disorders or eating disorders.

Home Treatment Methods

Not all obesity treatments are medical, though you should consult your doctor before starting a new diet, weight loss program or exercise program. The basics of home treatment for obesity are changing your lifestyle to become healthier and more conscious of what you eat. Consider your eating habits. Eat small portions of healthy, nutrient-rich food. Work closely with a dietician to decide what foods you should eat; aim for fresh fruits and vegetables, nuts and seeds, lean dairy, lean meats and healthier ways to prepare foods. You shouldnt eat less than 1,200 calories a day regardless of your weight. If you have issues with emotional overeating, find new and healthier ways to handle stressful situations so you can avoid binge eating. Start a fitness routine where you are getting at least 3-5 days of physical exercise. Combine cardio with weight training to help control your obesity and lose weight. Its important not to begin exercise before being examined by a medical professional.



Tammoima Gichana PharmD, MBA, MB(ASCP),RPh.