Obesity is a disease that affects over one-third of the adult American population (approximately 72 million Americans). It’s a serious health problem that’s associated with leading causes of death such as diabetes, heart disease, stroke and some types of cancer.
Further, according to figures from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), the number of overweight and obese Americans has increased since 1960, and that trend shows no sign of slowing down. Today, 66.3 percent of adult Americans (about 200 million) are categorized as being overweight or obese. Since 1960, adult Americans have increased average height by 1 inch and average weight by 25 pounds.
“When it comes to weight loss, there's no lack of fad diets promising fast results. But such diets limit your nutritional intake, can be unhealthy, and tend to fail in the long run,” Healthy 4 Life director of bariatric services Lorri Field RN, BSN, MBA said. “The key to achieving and maintaining a healthy weight isn't about short-term dietary changes. It's about a lifestyle that includes healthy eating, regular physical activity, and balancing the number of calories you consume with the number of calories your body uses.”
Bariatric refers to the causes, prevention and treatment of obesity. Most people are familiar with the concept of bariatric surgery, which alters the digestive system to help people with severe weight-related health problems lose weight. However, bariatric surgery is just one of the treatment options available for adults at the Healthy 4 Life Centers at St. Mary Medical Center in Hobart and Community Hospital in Munster.
“Most of our team has been together 12 years. Together we have combined experience of helping nearly 2,000 patients. We joined St. Mary’s in May of 2011 and opened the Munster Healthy 4 Life Center last year. In Feb., 2013 we will be expanding our services to Valparaiso,” Field explained. “Omar Shamsi, MD who is Board Certified in Internal Medicine and one of just a few hundred physicians in the country to hold a fellowship in Nutrition Support/Obesity Medicine is the gatekeeper for our program. He’s the first to see any patient interested in bariatric surgery. Each patient receives a full medical work-up, and he may meet with them for months to ensure they are in the best possible health prior to surgery.”
However, surgery isn’t the best option for everyone. That’s why Dr. Shamsi sees more medically managed weight loss patients than surgically managed. He’s passionate about guiding either group to more successful weight loss – regardless of the approach, according to Field.
“Some of our patients come in absolutely confident they want surgery and end up being very successful after meeting with Dr. Shamsi and the rest of the team,” she added. “They use the tools we provide through the medical tract, and it works. For those who could benefit most from surgery, there’s an intensive pre-surgical preparation program followed by post-op life-time support.”
With years of scientific research indicating that behavior, environmental and genetic factors all play a role in causing people to be overweight and obese, there’s no doubt that a technology-driven lifestyle of physical inactivity combined with the increased consumption of readily available and inexpensive high-calorie foods are top contributing factors in today’s rising epidemic.
“We don’t discount that personal choice plays into this, it’s just more dynamic than that,” Field said. “The common approach to obesity is: eat less, move more. Well, this hasn’t been too terribly effective, has it? We owe it to our patients to look at all the causes.”
As part of the Healthy 4 Life process, a highly experienced team of medical professionals, including two surgeons, a physician assistant, nurse practitioner, dietician, licensed clinical social worker and exercise specialists, work closely with patients to determine the best plan for achieving long-lasting results.
“The success of our program stems from of us working together collectively,” Field added. “If we look at the problem taking a myopic view, we would never see the results we do.”
It is predicted that the rising rates of obesity will lead to increases in bariatric surgery.
“After carefully weighing all the options, if a patient chooses the surgical route, we begin an extensive education process,” Healthy 4 Life medical director and board certified general surgeon Paul Stanish, MD, FACS, said. “It’s very thorough. We’ll see them 15-16 times before surgery so they definitely know what to expect, how to prepare and what to look out for afterwards.”
The first bariatric surgeon in northwest Indiana designated a Center of Excellence Bariatric Surgeon, Dr. Stanish explains that the complication rate for bariatric surgery is actually lower than any other relatively major surgery.
“All surgeries carry risk, and this patient population does have higher risk,” he said. “For most people, the risks are far outweighed by the results. We can actually cure or treat 8-9 different chronic problems when we fight obesity.”
That’s another reason why it’s important for people to understand that they must meet certain medical guidelines before they can qualify for weight-loss surgery.
“First and foremost, you must also be willing to make permanent changes that lead to a healthier lifestyle,” Healthy 4 Life bariatric coordinator and nurse practitioner Anna Farmer, RN, MS, NP-C said. “You a need to be committed for the long-term, and we’ll be there every step of the way - monitoring your nutrition, your lifestyle and your medical conditions.”
“Our goal is to help you get healthy and enjoy life to the fullest,” Healthy 4 Life bariatric dietitian Kathryn Lipari, RD, CD said. “We’re going to review dietary restrictions and preferences that meet your individual weight loss goal. With that, we may even be able to reduce your need for insulin or blood pressure medication. It’s definitely an ongoing process, and we’re to help 24/7.”
Along with fielding calls from the grocery store when patients need clarification before making a purchase, Farmer and Lipari help with motivation and reinforce the desire to change.
“One of our patients had the goal of riding a rollercoaster at Great America when she reached a certain weight. She said she was so nervous the whole time she was waiting in line and actually had a stomachache. Then, when it was her turn, she sat right down in the seat, buckled the belt like everyone else and no one even looked at her funny. She said it was the best feeling of her life,” Farmer recalled overcome by tears of pride and joy.
As her patient’s story indicates, overweight and obese people frequently confront obstacles and discrimination in many settings, from the workplace to educational institutions and even health care facilities. Certain experiences can impair their emotional well being, leading to depression, anxiety and low self-esteem. They often choose to cope by engaging in unhealthy eating patterns and avoiding physical activity.
If you're concerned about weight-related health problems, see your doctor or health care provider to evaluate your health risks and discuss your weight-loss options. Even modest weight loss can lessen or prevent problems related to obesity. Weight loss is usually possible through dietary changes, increased physical activity and behavior changes. In some cases, medical treatment and/or weight-loss surgery may be options.
You can learn about the latest options and treatments for obesity and related health issues tomorrow evening from 6-8pm at the St. Mary Medical Healthy 4 Life Center in Hobart. Join medical director Paul Stanish, MD and co-medical director Hung Dang, DO who will provide an overview of the comprehensive program for medical, surgical and lifestyle weight loss solutions offered by the experienced team of bariatric professionals in both Hobart and Munster. For details call 219.836.3477 or 1.866.836.3477.
You can also go to www.Healthy4LifeCenter.org online or call insurance specialist Michele Stanley who can answer your questions regarding weight loss and bariatric benefits.