Want to Help Patients? Evaluate and Address Your Own Risk Factors

It’s amazing to me that we can sit in our offices with an iPad and show our patients their likelihood of a heart attack or other illness, based on their risk factors. We hope, of course, to inspire them to take action to reduce those risk factors. I’ve found that in addition to counseling, sharing my own story makes this advice relatable and can be very motivating to my patients.

My own weight loss journey began when I noticed that I’d gained 30 pounds—no doubt the result of too many bad food choices and not enough activity. Many adults gain about a pound a year. But because it is so slow and gradual, most don’t notice until one day they realize, as I did, that they are buying bigger sized clothes.

My lab results, though, really made me pay attention. My blood sugar had gone up. ‘Mildly elevated,’ my physician said. But, being a doctor myself—I’m a cardiologist—I knew that could mean I either had developed or was on my way to developing prediabetes, the precursor to diabetes.

The potential health problems of excess weight would mean, I realized, changes to my lifestyle.  I like being active and am particularly fond of outdoor activities like skiing, hunting, fishing, biking and hiking. The extra weight would eventually limit my activities and reduce my ability to enjoy my favorite recreational sports. Additional pounds take an enormous toll on knee and hip joints, leading to a higher prevalence of orthopedic replacement procedures. The increased weight also increases the risk for arthritis and is often associated with osteoarthritis. Multiple chronic physical conditions can contribute to an earlier functional decline and reduced mobility—potentially affecting the common activities of daily living, even something as simple as walking.

In fact, the American Journal of Epidemiology reported that people who are obese in middle and old age will have mobility limitation, while the Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA) reported that people over the age of 60 who are obese are twice as likely to have some sort of disability as those of normal weight.

So, you may be hearing a replay of the same advice you give your patients. I knew all these facts but to that point, had not acted on them. Sound familiar? However, the tipping point was my family. As worrisome as my own health concerns were, seeing my children also struggling with weight issues was especially concerning. I realized I wasn’t setting a good example for them or my patients  and resolved to change that. The question was how to go about losing my excess weight and, once it was lost, how to keep it from coming back.

I started by educating myself on health and wellness and learning about different approaches to weight loss and weight management. I opted for the Ideal Protein program that offered a comprehensive weight management solution. As I lost weight, I could avoid the potential health conditions that are related to obesity. The program offered sustainable weight loss with a low-carbohydrate protocol as well as nutritional counseling. It also included a component for long-term weight control and lifestyle changes that I could maintain for the rest of my (now) long and healthy life.

I lost the weight and have kept it off for more than five years. Now I don’t worry about my weight giving me increased risk for many serious health conditions, including such chronic, debilitating and potentially life-threatening diseases as type 2 diabetes. I’m also continuing to enjoy my outdoor activities. Plus, my children learned from my example and now have their weight under control, too.

My family members aren’t the only ones that can reap the benefit of my experience. Until I took my own advice, all I could tell my overweight patients was to eat less and exercise more. Now, I can confidently recommend something to my patients that I know actually works. To join the ranks of healthcare providers fighting obesity, tweet @DrsFightObesity or use #DoctorsFightingObesity to keep the conversation going.

Timothy N. Logemann, MD, FACC, ABOM is a board-certified internist and cardiologist at Wausau, Wisconsin-based Aspirus Heart and Vascular, which offers a structured weight management protocol, the Ideal Protein Protocol. He is certified by the American Board of Obesity Medicine and is a member of the Ideal Protein Cardiology Advisory Board.