Focusing on the important – as well as the urgent
Over 1,000,000 primary care physicians are directed to focus on fitness counseling in a national report from Dr. JoAnn Manson, chief of preventative
medicine at Harvard’s Brigham and Women’s Hospital and Dr. Philip Greenland, a Chicago heart specialist.
Primary care physicians, who typically see patients three times a year, are urged to use these occasions to prescribe life-saving changes in eating and exercise. Assessing body mass index, taking waist measurements and discussing patient’s activity levels must be as routine as taking blood pressure.
Although the pressure of heavy workload and urgency of immediate medical problems makes counseling patients difficult, the alternative is grim.
Nationally, 300,000 people die prematurely and more than $90 billion in health care costs each year because of excess weight and sedentary lifestyle.
“We are treating the symptoms of the disease, rather than the root cause,” says Manson. Obesity and sedentary lifestyle is a “really serious medical issue and it should be conveyed to patients.” The authors point out patients should be informed that a body-mass index of 30 or higher doubles the risk of heart disease and triples the risk for diabetes.
Dr. Rene Kronland, Grass Valley primary care physician, additionally emphasizes the importance of people over 40 getting periodic check-ups to work on steps which, when undertaken early enough, can reduce future medical problems.
“Many people avoid making lifestyle changes until they aren’t feeling well. They make excuses like insurance won’t cover it, or they don’t have the time,” says Dr. Kronland. “By the time the patient needs a doctor, some or all of the damage to the body is irreversible.”
Over 130 million Americans are overweight – two-third of the adults in the U.S. – and numbers rise daily. The call to action underscores the need for doctors to act aggressively in combating the growing epidemic.
Sources: Dr. JoAnn Manson, Harvard’s Brigham and Women’s Hospital; Dr. Philip Greenland, Cardiologist, as reported by Lindsay Tanner, medical writer, Associated Press, and Dr. Rene Kronland, Grass Valley.
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