Options for Losing Weight and Staying Healthy Throughout Life

Posted by Brigham and Women's Hospital September 11, 2014

Dr. Ali Tavakkoli

Losing weight is about more than looking good. It’s also important for your long-term health, especially if your body mass index is over 35. According to Ali Tavakkoli, MD, Co-Director of the Center for Weight Management and Metabolic Surgery at Brigham and Women’s Hospital (BWH), if an individual’s weight reaches a BMI of 40, life expectancy is reduced by eight to ten years, equivalent to being a lifelong heavy smoker.

Options for losing weight include lifestyle changes (diet and exercise), medications, and surgery (for patients with a BMI over 40 or a BMI of 35 with certain conditions, such as diabetes or hypertension). Within each of these options, patients have many additional choices.

The BWH Center for Weight Management and Metabolic Surgery was created to help patients evaluate their weight loss options and streamline care. At the Center, weight management specialists, dieticians, and appropriate medical specialists provide each patient the appropriate dietary, nutritional, behavioral, and medical support to help them improve their health.

Watch a video with Dr. Tavakkoli to learn what patients can expect during an evaluation at the Center and the treatment options that are available.

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Obesity Treatment – Evaluating Your Options

Posted by Brigham and Women's Hospital January 7, 2014

There are a wide range of weight loss approaches, including lifestyle changes, medical therapies, and surgical treatments.

When it comes to treating obesity, there are many options. And, what may be ideal for one person may not be right for another.

“Many people with obesity are unsure which direction to take when it comes to losing weight,” explains Dr. Florencia Halperin, an endocrinologist and Co-Director of the Center for Weight Management and Metabolic Surgery. “We believe that it is important for patients to understand all of the available treatment choices, including the benefits and drawbacks of each approach, so that they can make informed decisions.”

Dr. Halperin and bariatric surgeon Ali Tavakkoli, MD, Center Co-Director, provide consultation for patients regarding a wide range of approaches, including lifestyle changes, medical therapies, and surgical treatments, and work with them to develop an individualized plan based on needs and preferences.

“Often, we incorporate multiple strategies in the overall plan,” says Dr. Tavakkoli. “For example, some patients may desire to start with lifestyle modifications and medications. For patients with type 2 diabetes and certain lipid disorders, weight loss surgery has been shown to be a benefit and may be considered earlier, with continued treatment with lifestyle changes to ensure ongoing success.”

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Healthy Holidays! – Lose the Weight and Celebrate

Posted by Brigham and Women's Hospital December 19, 2013

Head for the healthy platters at your holiday parties.

The holidays are here, but don’t let it derail you from your weight management goals. It’s quite possible to enjoy festivities, food, and drink without packing on unwanted pounds. Here’s some advice from our Brigham and Women’s Hospital Health-e-Weight program team:

  • Think about what you’ll eat before the holiday meal or party. Don’t save your appetite for one particular meal or party and arrive starved.
  • Focus on vegetables. Use them for appetizers, serve salad as the first course, sneak them (carrots and celery) into a dressing, or make vegetables, in general, the predominant part of your plate.
  • Tinker with traditional recipes. Consider mashing potatoes with skim milk or buttermilk instead of whole milk. Don’t go overboard with brown sugar, marshmallows, or butter if preparing sweet potatoes. Cook stuffing on the stovetop, not in the turkey (or at least have both versions). Try providing a fruit crisp instead of a traditional pie, or elect to have no more than one pie type. Lastly, aim for a sliver rather than a slice or wedge. Read More »

Obesity Is Now a Disease

Posted by Brigham and Women's Hospital November 13, 2013

Comparing your waist circumference to your height is one method for assessing obesity.

Obesity is now a disease. That is the much publicized conclusion reached by the American Medical Association during its June 2013 annual meeting. While this doesn’t change how registered dietitians manage their clients seeking or needing weight loss, it may allow more physicians to refer their patients for nutritional counseling sooner and perhaps encourage more health insurers to cover nutritional consultations.

Some critics argue that labeling obesity as a disease may take the onus off individuals to alter lifestyle habits, such as improving eating choices and increasing physical activity level. Proponents of the obesity designation counter with the fact that other conditions like diabetes and heart disease are indeed diseases, despite them being better managed with lifestyle changes.

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I Can’t Lose Weight – My Knee Hurts!

Posted by Brigham and Women's Hospital October 23, 2013

An orthopedic specialist can help you identify the cause of your knee pain and work with you to develop a treatment plan that will keep you moving.

Today’s post, written by Dr. Elizabeth Matzkin, Surgical Director of the Women’s Sports Medicine Program at Brigham and Women’s Hospital, was adapted from an article that originally appeared on  A Nation in Motion, sponsored by the American Academy of Orthopedic Surgeons.

I hear this all the time – “I’m trying to lose weight – but I can’t exercise because my knee hurts.”  It’s a never-ending cycle that needs to be broken!

More than 36 percent of adults and 17 percent of children in the US are obese, which is a far too common problem. Obesity causes an increased load on your muscles and joints. The knee joint feels five times your body weight with each step you take – so a weight loss of even five pounds can feel like a 25-pound weight loss to your knee, helping to reduce your knee pain.

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Improving America’s Heart Health, One Step at a Time

Posted by Brigham and Women's Hospital September 26, 2013

The BWH ClimbCorps team is dedicated to fighting heart disease.

Last fall, Brigham and Women’s Hospital (BWH) launched an innovative program called ClimbCorps to improve America’s health and prevent heart disease. The goal of ClimbCorps, the nation’s first service corps dedicated to fighting heart disease and improving America’s health, is to train aspiring public health leaders to educate, engage, and empower others in achieving a healthier lifestyle.

Through organized stair climbs, educational workshops, and fundraisers , ClimbCorps members are raising awareness about heart disease and improving America’s health, one step at time. In its first year alone, ClimbCorps has transformed the stairwells in Boston’s largest office buildings into fitness venues, with participants climbing over eight million steps. In addition to educating thousands of people on heart disease prevention, ClimbCorps also has hosted two Climbathon fundraising events , which brought together more than 1,800 climbers and volunteers to raise more than $120,000 for heart disease prevention.

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Your Health: Ten Things That Really Matter, Tip #10

Posted by Brigham and Women's Hospital February 28, 2013

It's important to know your wellness numbers and which ones are most important to you.

To conclude American Heart Month, we’ve been featuring health tips that were presented by Brigham and Women’s Hospital women’s health experts, Dr. JoAnne Foody and Dr. Paula Johnson, at the Boston Go Red for Women Educational Forum. (Go Red for Women, sponsored by the American Heart Association, occurs each February to educate all women about the need to take care of their hearts.)

Men take note, these tips can benefit you, too – heart disease is the leading cause of death for both men and women. Today, we present the final tip.

10. KNOWING YOUR NUMBERS IS NOT ENOUGH: KNOW WHICH NUMBERS ARE MEANINGFUL TO YOU.

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Your Health: Ten Things that Really Matter (Part 3)

Posted by Brigham and Women's Hospital February 27, 2013

Tip #9: Be active!

To conclude American Heart Month, we’re featuring ten health tips that were presented by Brigham and Women’s Hospital women’s health experts, Dr. JoAnne Foody and Dr. Paula Johnson, at the Boston Go Red for Women Educational Forum. (Go Red for Women, sponsored by the American Heart Association, occurs each February to educate all women about the need to take care of their hearts.)

Men take note, these tips can benefit you, too – heart disease is the leading cause of death for both men and women. Check back with us as we publish new tips through the end of February.

7. IMPROVE COMMUNICATION WITH YOUR PROVIDERS.

Ask Me 3™ is a patient education program to promote communication between health care providers and patients to help improve health outcomes. The program encourages patients to understand the answers to three questions:

  • What is my main problem?
  • What do I need to do?
  • Why is it important for me to do this?

Patients should be encouraged to ask their providers these three simple but essential questions in every health care interaction. Likewise, providers should always encourage their patients to understand the answers to these three questions. Studies show that people who thoroughly understand health instructions make fewer mistakes when they take their medicine or prepare for a medical procedure. They also may get well sooner or be able to better manage a chronic health condition.

TIP:  Bring all of your medications (including over the counter) to your annual physical.

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Your Health: Ten Things That Really Matter (Part 2)

Posted by Brigham and Women's Hospital February 26, 2013

Inadequate sleep can lead to anxiety, overeating, high blood pressure, difficulty concentrating, and other problems.

To conclude American Heart Month, we’re featuring ten health tips that were presented by Brigham and Women’s Hospital women’s health experts, Dr. JoAnne Foody and Dr. Paula Johnson, at the Boston Go Red for Women Educational Forum. (Go Red for Women, sponsored by the American Heart Association, occurs each February to educate all women about the need to take care of their hearts.)

Men take note, these tips can benefit you, too – heart disease is the leading cause of death for both men and women. Check back with us as we publish new tips through the end of February.

4. PREVENT DIABETES.

Patients with diabetes take longer to heal from injuries than those without. Diabetes can cause heart attack, stroke, kidney problems, impaired vision, and neuropathy. Although diabetes can come from a genetic predisposition, a high-sugar diet and lack of exercise are modifiable risk factors. Exercise, even without associated weight loss, can improve the body’s glucose control. Studies show that physical activity decreases your risk of diabetes. One hundred and fifty minutes per week (or just 30 minutes per day on weekdays) can reduce your risk of getting diabetes or reduce dependence on medications if you already have diabetes.

It’s never too late. If you have diabetes, you can still exercise. Just make sure you check your blood sugars regularly and be honest with your doctor about your exercise level. Together, you can come up with a plan to balance your exercise level and medications to help with blood sugar control.

TIP:  Use a pedometer!  It is much more fun to count steps than carbohydrates.  If you like the sweet stuff, try to avoid snacks with high sugar content, as they don’t make you feel full.

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Your Health: Ten Things that Really Matter (Part 1)

Posted by Brigham and Women's Hospital February 25, 2013

Health tip #1: Quit smoking.

To conclude American Heart Month, we’re featuring ten health tips that were presented by Brigham and Women’s Hospital women’s health experts, Dr. JoAnne Foody and Dr. Paula Johnson, at the Boston Go Red for Women Educational Forum. (Go Red for Women, sponsored by the American Heart Association, occurs each February to educate all women about the need to take care of their hearts.)

Men take note, these tips can benefit you, too – heart disease is the leading cause of death for both men and women. Check back with us as we publish new tips through the end of February.

1. DON’T SMOKE: IF YOU DO SMOKE, STOP.

Smoking promotes multiple medical problems, including chronic health issues like heart attack, stroke, osteoporosis, and cancer. The same is true for all tobacco-containing products, from cigars to chewing tobacco. Secondhand smoke should also be avoided.  Improvements in health, including lifespan and activity level, begin the day you quit. While quitting should be the goal, even simply decreasing the number of cigarettes you smoke can improve your life. Preventive efforts, like lowering cholesterol, may be especially effective in decreasing risk for smokers and former smokers.

TIP: If you’ve tried quitting, keep trying!  Research shows it takes an average of three to five tries to quit. If you’re struggling, ask your doctor for help.

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