Obesity Intervention and Heart Health: The Pharmacist’s Role

Karen Riley BScPhm, Pharm D, BCPS, BCGP, BCACP, CDE 

This month, the media focuses in on Heart health and Stroke awareness. What a better time to highlight the role of the pharmacist on lifestyle management and weight loss for heart and stroke prevention.

Based on statistics from the Heart and Stroke, 8 in 10 cases of premature heart disease and stroke is preventable through healthy lifestyle behavior. Did you know that over 70% of Americans and over half  of Canadians are overweight or obese?

We are told that as pharmacists, we are commonly considered one of the most trustworthy and accessible health care professionals.   We also know that we have a unique opportunity to reach out to patients of all ages, as a high percentage of the population visits a community pharmacy at least once a year.

We are ideally situated to provide advice on lifestyle and weight management to many patient populations. For example, in your practice, consider who you see in a day.  Is it primarily elderly seniors with chronic medical conditions, or is it young parents with sick children?  Both can benefit from prevention recommendations related to heart health, including weight loss counseling.

As pharmacists, we are aware that many risk factors for heart disease and stroke are in an individual’s power to control including diet, exercise and stress management.  We also know that weight management has a positive impact on overall heart health. Excess weight is closely related to metabolic syndrome, a cluster of health conditions including increased blood pressure, high blood sugar and abnormal cholesterol or triglyceride levels that increase the risk for heart disease, stroke and type 2 diabetes.  Also, diabetes increases the risk of metabolic syndrome, atherosclerosis, coronary artery disease and stroke – particularly if blood sugar levels are poorly controlled.

More and more pharmacists are stepping up to the plate to develop lifestyle management protocols incorporating weight loss into their practice.  Pharmacist-assisted weight management protocols start by documenting patient parameters in our computer systems. Recording weight, height, waist circumstance and calculating BMI are great starts.  We can identify possible medication related causes of weight gain. We can identify potential obesity related diseases while doing our medication reviews. We need to treat lifestyle management and weight like we have been taught to document smoking status.

I challenge you as a pharmacist this month to reach out to your patients, assess their heart risk, identify weight as a possible risk factor and give them options for weight loss beyond just telling them that they would benefit from losing weight.

Encouraging our patients to achieving a healthy weight is an important step in promoting their heart and brain health. The benefits of weight loss are worth it in the end. It all starts by asking one patient today!

To join the ranks of healthcare providers fighting obesity, tweet @DrsFightObesity or use #DoctorsFightingObesity to keep the conversation going.

Karen Riley BScPhm, Pharm D, BCPS, BCGP, BCACP, CDE  is president of KD Riley Pharmacist Professional Corporation. She is a Medication Therapy Management Pharmacist providing pharmacy consulting services to a broad range of patients. She serves as a Clinical Assistant Professor with the University of Florida College of Pharmacy. Dr. Riley also sits on the Sarnia Lambton Alzheimer Board of Directors and the Lambton Mental Health Board of Directors.  She is a member of the Ideal Protein Medical Advisory Board and is an Ideal Protein Weight Loss Consultant in Sarnia, Ontario.