Obesity is a disease causing a public health crisis. In the United States, tobacco use and obesity are the two most important causes of preventable premature death. They result in an estimated 480,0001 and 300,0002 premature deaths per year, respectively. Obesity is a major contributor to diabetes mellitus, hypertension, dyslipidemia, and coronary heart disease. Obesity is also associated with increased rates of colon, breast, and endometrial cancer. Experts predict that in 2030, 50% of adults in the United States will have a body mass index (BMI) ≥ 30 kg/m2, and 25% will have a BMI ≥ 35 kg/m2.3 More women than men are predicted to be severely obese (FIGURE).3
As clinicians we need to increase our efforts to reduce the epidemic of obesity. ObGyns can play an important role in preventing and managing obesity, by recommending primary-care weight management practices, prescribing medications that influence central metabolism, and referring appropriate patients to bariatric surgery centers of excellence.
Primary-care weight management
Measuring BMI and recommending interventions to prevent and treat obesity are important components of a health maintenance encounter. For women who are overweight or obese, dietary changes and exercise are important recommendations. The American Heart Association recommends the following lifestyle interventions4:
- Eat a high-quality diet that includes vegetables, fruit, whole grains, beans, legumes, nuts, plant-based protein, lean animal protein, and fish.
- Limit intake of sugary drinks and foods, fatty or processed meats, full-fat dairy products, eggs, highly processed foods, and tropical oils.
- Exercise at least 150 minutes weekly at a moderate activity level, including muscle-strengthening activity.
- Reduce prolonged intervals of sitting.
- Consider using an activity tracker to monitor activity level.
Clinicians should consider referring overweight and obese patients to a nutritionist for a consultation to plan how to consume a high-quality, low-calorie diet. A nutritionist can spend time with patients explaining options for implementing a calorie-restricted diet. In addition, some health insurers will require patients to participate in a supervised calorie-restricted diet plan for at least 6 months before authorizing coverage of expensive weight loss medications or bariatric surgery. In addition to recommending diet and exercise, ObGyns may consider prescribing metformin for their obese patients.
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