Until recently, people were either classified as overweight or obese based on their body mass index. Now you can use a new type of obesity classification in your practice. The term severe obesity describes people who meet one of three criteria. It can apply to people with a BMI greater than 40; people who exceed their ideal body weights by more than one hundred pounds; and people with a BMI of 35 or greater who also have hypertension, diabetes, or another comorbidity.
Severe obesity has a negative impact on quality of life, especially in people who have coexisting health conditions. This type of obesity may be accompanied by other conditions, including gallbladder disease, hypercholesterolemia, hypertension, heart disease, diabetes, sleep apnea, arthritis, and some types of cancer. People with severe obesity also have an increased risk of stroke. A severely obese person will need a different treatment plan than someone who is a normal weight or only slightly overweight.
Severe obesity is a healthcare problem in America for several reasons. Environment is one of the biggest factors. People tend to drive cars or take public transportation instead of walking or biking to work. Frozen meals, fast food, and other convenience foods have replaced lean meats and fresh fruits and vegetables for some. Americans tend to live fast-paced lifestyles, and this can increase stress and make healthy diet and exercise decisions more difficult. You also have to consider genetics when looking at the causes of obesity. Some people are prone to being obese, but more research is needed to determine which genes have the biggest impact on weight.
If you are a pediatrician, you need to be aware of the increased prevalence of severe obesity in children and adolescents. Anywhere from 4 to 6 percent of adolescents and children in the United States can be classified as severely obese. This is a significant public health problem because it drives healthcare costs up and makes it harder to prevent diseases in young people. Children with severe obesity have an increased risk for heart problems, prediabetes, insulin resistance, joint and muscle disorders, and sleep apnea. Obesity also puts kids at risk for psychosocial disorders, especially if other children bully them about their weight. If you treat children and adolescents in your practice, it is important to consider their emotional needs along with their physical needs.
Higher rates of severe obesity in children are a serious problem for healthcare professionals, hospital administrators, and patients. This type of obesity increases the risk for serious health problems and contributes to rising healthcare costs. You cannot solve this problem alone, but you can educate your patients about the importance of a balanced diet and plenty of physical activity. Pay special attention to the health concerns of children who already meet the criteria for severe obesity. You may be able to identify health problems and treat them before they cause serious complications.
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