Some healthcare providers specialize in treating patients who are obese or overweight. These healthcare providers are called bariatric healthcare providers or bariatricians. Some of these healthcare providers may also be bariatric surgeons. Bariatric surgeons are trained to do surgery that aids in weight loss.
Obesity is when body fat is above a certain level. Body mass index (BMI) is a common way to measure obesity. BMI is a measurement that uses a person's height and weight to determine a weight category. A BMI of 25 to 29.9 means overweight. A BMI higher than 30 means obese. Your healthcare provider can calculate your BMI for you. You can also ask your healthcare provider to teach you how to calculate BMI yourself.
Obesity can cause health problems such as diabetes and sleep apnea. Losing weight can lower the risk of having these health problems. A general healthcare provider can offer treatment for weight loss. Bariatric healthcare providers have more training in how to treat obesity. They have often had special training after medical school. Many of them take extra exams to earn board certification in bariatrics. Some of them also have training to do weight loss surgery.
A bariatric healthcare provider uses a broad treatment plan. He or she will tailor your plan to meet your needs. Your plan will include aspects such as nutrition, exercise, behavior changes, and medicines. He or she may advise weight loss surgery. A bariatric treatment plan is done to treat obesity, and also the health conditions linked to obesity.
Obesity has become a common, serious, and costly problem in the U.S. Approximately one third of adults in the U.S are obese. Because of this, the role of bariatric healthcare providers has become more active in recent years.
If you are obese, it’s important that you get the right treatment. Obesity can lead to a number of serious health conditions, including:
High blood pressure
Certain lung diseases
You might begin your treatment with your primary healthcare provider. If you need additional help, you may want to see a bariatric healthcare provider. He or she may have new ideas or approaches for weight loss that can help you. Some bariatric healthcare providers give general medical care in addition to treating obesity. In this case, you may choose to make your bariatric healthcare provider your primary healthcare provider.
During your initial visit, your bariatric healthcare provider may:
Take a medical history. This includes your history of nutrition, exercise, and weight loss.
Do a physical exam, including BMI, waist circumference, and blood pressure
Look at your health problems related to obesity
Look for other medical problems that might cause weight gain
Look at how ready you are to start an exercise program
Find out if you need tests
Help you make realistic weight loss goals
Give you a nutrition plan
Tell you to keep a food diary
Find out if you need a weight-loss medicine
Your bariatric healthcare provider should also give you information about:
Healthy eating habits
Healthy exercise habits
How to change health behaviors
How mental health affects obesity
Complications of obesity
Benefits and risks of medicines
Your healthcare provider will create a treatment plan for you based on your medical needs and preferences.
At each follow-up visit, your healthcare provider will check your progress. He or she will make changes to your treatment as needed. If you aren’t losing enough weight, your healthcare provider will suggest that you make other changes. As you lose weight and your health gets better, your healthcare provider might change some of your medicines.
Your bariatric healthcare provider will also talk with you about your changing needs. For example, if you try other treatments and your weight loss stops, your healthcare provider might talk with you about weight-loss surgery.
Your bariatric healthcare provider may order a variety of tests to check factors related to your obesity, such as:
Tests for diabetes, such as fasting blood glucose
Lipid and cholesterol levels
Thyroid-stimulating hormone levels
Liver blood tests
Kidney function blood tests
Vitamin D levels
Electrocardiogram to assess heart rhythm
Exercise testing to see how well your heart works during exercise
Resting metabolic rate to see how many calories you burn at rest
Depending on your medical needs, your healthcare provider might give you other tests.
Talk with your primary healthcare provider. He or she may be able to refer you to a bariatric healthcare provider. The Obesity Medicine Association, formerly known as American Society of Bariatric Physicians, has an online listing of healthcare providers. Visit www.asbp.org to search for a healthcare provider in your area.