Estimates show that 155 million Americans are considered overweight or obese. Obesity is a major risk factor in the development of type 2 diabetes and cardiovascular disease. To help combat this national health issue, the National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute recently released updated guidelines on the management of overweight and obesity.

These guidelines offer primary care providers a road map to managing obese and overweight patients along with recommendations to better help patients achieve healthier lifestyles. The guidelines encourage physicians to think of treating obesity as any other disease a patient may have.

Mudita Malhotra, MD, a family medicine physician and medical director of Adventist Medical Group, explains that the guidelines not only help physicians understand how to approach patients, but also provide some evidence-based guidance to patients as they try to improve their health. Dr. Malhotra believes physicians can enhance the opportunity for better clinical outcomes and quality of life by integrating their clinical expertise, the best quality research and a patient’s values which is the basis of evidence-based medicine.

Similar to past recommendations, the new guidelines advocate for the use of body mass index (BMI), which is a standard measurement of height and weight as the first step in screening patients. Waist circumference is also used as an indicator for the risk of developing chronic disease. The new recommendations suggest calculating BMI for patients every year, or more frequently depending on the individual.

The new guidelines more aggressively identify patients that are overweight or obese. One key change suggests weight loss for patients with a BMI of 25 and just one co-morbid condition such as diabetes, high cholesterol, or high blood pressure. Previous guidelines recommend treatment for those with a body mass index of 30 or higher. Also, a high waist circumference is now considered a co-morbid condition. Finally, the new guidelines offer more aggressive approaches for high-risk patients including bariatric surgery.

For the millions of Americans that face the sometimes daunting task of trying to lose weight to improve their health, the guidelines do not recommend any specific diet as best.  Yet, findings indicate that even modest weight loss can result in significant health improvements. Dr. Malhotra agrees. “Sustained weight loss of 3-5 percent produces clinically meaningful health benefits-reductions in blood pressure and blood glucose and improvements in cholesterol.”

Dr. Malhotra says the best thing patients can do to help improve their health is to know their key health numbers (blood pressure, cholesterol, blood glucose, and weight), learn to take small steps in their approach to health and weight loss and participate actively with a primary care provider in managing health.

If you would like help with weight management please visit our Health and Wellness calendar to find health education and screening classes in your area at or call 1-800-542-5096.