Learn How Inflammation Can Lead to Chronic Diseases

By Dr. Ann Kulze, M.D.

Inflammation is now widely recognized as a primary driver for most all chronic diseases and it appears that losing even modest amounts of weight can effectively douse the damaging inferno of excess inflammation in the body. For this one year evaluation, 438 women were placed on a weight loss program through diet or diet and exercise. For women in the diet and exercise group, measures of C-reactive protein (a key marker for inflammation in the body) dropped 42%. In the diet only group, levels dropped by 36 percent. For both groups, losing just 5% of their initial body weight provided even larger reductions in C-reactive protein. Because higher levels of C-reactive protein have been linked to a litany of chronic diseases including heart disease, type 2 diabetes, and cancers of the breast, colon, lung and uterus, this study underscores the enormous benefits that can result from losing even small amounts of excess body fat.


Joggers Rejoice!

Source: Dr. Ann Kulze

May 2012 Newsletter

Wellness Delivered Pure and Simple

In a stunning affirmation of the profound health-boosting effects of regular physical activity, European Cardiovascular researchers concluded that regular jogging can dramatically increase life expectancy. As part of the Copenhagen City Heart Study, investigators followed 19,329 adult study subjects over a period of up to 35 years. Study subjects who reported regular jogging at a "slow or average" pace were 40% less likely to die over the study period than non-joggers and increased their life expectancy by an average of 6 years. What's more, regular joggers also reported an enhanced sense of overall well-being.

 

Based on this evaluation, maximum survival benefits were seen in those who jogged between one to two and a half hours a week over two to three sessions. Thankfully, there are numerous types of aerobic activities that get the heart rate into this "jogging zone". According to the lead investigator, the goal is to move to the point of "feeling a little breathless, but not very breathless". (1)


Are Chubby Workers Eating You Out of Profits?

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OSHA recordkeeping and reporting requirements appear straightforward, but the devil is in the details. Pound for pound, obese workers cost you plenty. Here are some facts that should disturb you.

 Which employee health issue costs employers more, obesity or smoking?

If you guessed obesity, you guessed right. A study in the Journal of Occupational and Environmental Medicine analyzed the additional costs of smoking and obesity among more than 30,000 Mayo Clinic employees and retirees. All had continuous health insurance coverage between 2001 and 2007.

Both obesity and smoking were associated with excess health costs. Compared to nonsmokers, average health costs were $1,275 higher for smokers. And obese people averaged an additional $1,850 more than normal-weight individuals. For those with morbid obesity, costs were up to $5,500 per year.

Clearly obesity is an issue that most employers will need to deal with in the future. Americans are becoming fatter every year, and that means increasing health problems and increasing health costs. Since many of these obese people work, employers will be impacted by increasing medical costs and lost productivity.

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Facts and Figures

Here are some other statistics that paint a worrisome picture:

•    Annual healthcare cost of obesity in the U.S. is estimated to be $147 billion per year.

•    Annual medical burden of obesity increased to 9.1 percent in 2006 compared to 6.5 percent in 1998.

•    Medical expenses for an obese employee are estimated to be 42 percent higher than for employees with a healthy weight.

•    Three major conditions related to obesity (heart disease, diabetes and arthritis) cost employers $220 billion annually in medical cost and lost productivity, according to CDC and MetLife research.

•    An American Journal of Health Behavior study showed that the annual medical cost increased from $119 for normal-weight employees to $573 for overweight employees and to $620 for obese employees.

•    A MetLife study found that the average absence for employee who filed an obesity-related short-term disability claim was 45 days.

•    A 1998 study found obesity resulted in approximately 39 million lost work days, 239 million restricted-activity days, 90 million bed days and 63 million physician visits.

•    Obese employees have double workers’ compensation claims, 7 times higher medical claims, and lost 10 times more working days from illness or injury compared to non-obese employees, according to the Duke University Medical Center.

Who's Obese?

Obesity is defined as at least 30 to 40 pounds overweight, severely obese is at least 60 pounds overweight, and morbidly obese is at least 100 pounds overweight.

Obesity can increase the risk for many adverse health effects, including:

·    Type-2 diabetes

·    Hypertension

·    Heart failure

·    High cholesterol

·    Kidney failure

·    Degenerative joint disease and arthritis

·    Gallstones and gall bladder disease

·    Cancer

·    Lung and breathing problems (asthma)

·    Faster aging

 


New Guidelines On Obesity Treatment Herald Changes In Coverage

By Michelle Andrews
July 10, 2012
Source: Kaiser Health News

Eat less, exercise more. Simple? Yes. Easy? No. If weight loss were easy, obesity rates among adults in the United States probably wouldn't have reached the current 36 percent.

Recently revised guidelines from the U.S. Preventive Services Task Force acknowledge that fact. They recommend that clinicians screen patients for obesity, which is defined as having a body mass index of 30 or higher. Further, they say patients who meet or exceed that level should be offered or referred to "intensive, multicomponent behavioral interventions" to help them lose weight.

The revised guidelines strengthen the previous recommendations, says David Grossman, a senior investigator at Group Health Research Institute in Seattle and a member of the task force.

For the millions of people who struggle to lose weight, the new guidelines offer much-needed support. It's unclear whether employers and insurers will welcome the change, though.

Under the 2010 health-care law, new health plans and those whose benefits change enough to lose their grandfathered status must provide services recommended by the Preventive Services Task Force at no cost to members. For the 70 percent of employers that already offer weight management programs, that may mean just supplementing what they already offer, says Russell Robbins, a senior clinical consultant at Mercer, a human resources consulting firm.

But some employers are concerned they may be on the hook for ongoing treatment as employees make repeated attempts to lose weight.

"From a financial standpoint, the guidelines are pretty broad and pretty extensive," says Helen Darling, president of the National Business Group on Health, which represents the interests of large firms. "Does this mean that employers and the government will be paying for up to 26 intense visits every year for every obese person for the rest of their lives?"

An HHS official said the department is evaluating whether to issue additional guidance on the new rules.

Insurers will be working to determine how best to satisfy the recommendations, says Susan Pisano, a spokeswoman for America's Health Insurance Plans, an industry group.

"I think the real question is making sure there are programs that fulfill these requirements," she says.

According to the task force, effective weight-loss programs involve 12 to 26 group or individual sessions over the course of a year that cover multiple behavioral management techniques. These may include setting weight-loss goals and strategizing about how to maintain lifestyle changes, incorporating exercise and eating a more healthful diet, and learning to address the psychological and other barriers that create roadblocks to weight loss. The task force found that people in these programs generally lost nine to 15 pounds in the first year.

The task force said there wasn't enough evidence to determine whether such interventions worked for people who were overweight but not obese.

A number of existing programs provide the kind of care that the guidelines recommend, say experts.

Weight Watchers, for example, runs 20,000 meetings a week around the country where people discuss their weight-loss challenges and successes and get pointers on losing weight and keeping it off.

At $42.95 a month for access to group meetings and online food tracking and other tools, however, it's not an option for many people with limited incomes, who make up a disproportionate share of the obese. Some employers subsidize their employees' membership in the program. Under the new guidelines, insurers and employers could be responsible for paying 100 percent of the cost.

Other programs have also been successful. Two years ago, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, in partnership with UnitedHealth Group and the YMCA, launched the National Diabetes Prevention Program for people at high risk for developing Type 2 diabetes.

The program is based on a study in which participants who learned to eat more healthfully and exercised at least 150 minutes a week lost 5 to 7 percent of their weight and reduced their risk of developing diabetes by 58 percent.

The program is offered by many YMCAs and other groups. It offers each participant 16 weekly group weight-loss sessions followed by six monthly sessions. It's a covered benefit for people with UnitedHealthcare or Medica insurance; others pay based on a sliding scale, says Ann Albright, director of CDC's Division of Diabetes Translation. CDC is working with Medicaid and Medicare to try to get it covered by those programs, says Albright.

John Joseph IV tipped the scales at 203 and had a BMI of 28.3 when he paid $150 to join the program at the YMCA near his Birmingham, Ala., home. In the four months since then, the 34-year-old, who runs a job-coaching business for college grads, has dropped 17 pounds.

At the weekly group meetings, he learned to count the fat grams in food and to make smarter food choices. Now he eats fewer cookies and more flounder. He started an exercise program and runs or lifts weights for 30 minutes three times a week.

"I thought, if I can do this, it will give me the infrastructure and habits so I can get to the mid-170s, which is where I want to be," he says.

Losing weight is hard, but keeping it off may be harder.

In 2009, Gayenell Magwood lost 100 pounds with the help of the weight management center at the Medical University of South Carolina in Charleston.

But after health problems curtailed her exercise routine for a few months, her weight crept up to 170, a gain of nearly 20 pounds. Magwood, 49, who lives in North Charleston and is a researcher in the College of Nursing at MUSC, went through the 15-week program all over again, at a cost of about $600. She lost the weight she had regained.

Before enrolling in the MUSC program, "I'd never once been successful with significant weight loss," she says.


Workforce Obesity: What Can You Do?

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What can you do to help workers maintain a healthy weight and keep your bottom line healthy at the same time? Read about a company that's helping its workers lose tons of weight.

 

Employees of Health Care Services Corporation (HCSC) lost more than 53,000 pounds last year. HCSC is the owner and operator of Blue Cross Blue Shield of Illinois, Texas, Oklahoma, and New Mexico.

According to Senior Vice President Dr. Paul Handel, that amount tops the company’s 20-ton weight-loss goal. A robust wellness program including fitness centers, classes, and healthy cafeteria food are part of the solution.

"Many employers have viewed wellness programs as a nice extra when times are flush," says Handel. "We believe that the obesity epidemic and the rising toll of diabetes now make them a strategic imperative."

Financial incentives are an important part of the HCSC strategy. In addition to tying wellness to annual bonuses, the company offers employees additional incentives of up to $200 a year for taking an annual wellness exam and logging their physical activity.

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Other Strategies

The key to achieving and maintaining a healthy weight, says the Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), isn't about short-term dietary changes. It's about a lifestyle that includes:

·         Healthy eating;

·         Regular physical activity; and

·         Balancing the number of calories consumed with the number of calories the body uses.

According to CDC the first step in maintaining a healthy weight is to look at the current situation. Body Mass Index (BMI) is one way to measure weight. BMI calculations are based on height and weight:

·         A BMI of 18.5 signifies being underweight.

·         The range between 18.5 and 24.4 is considered to be a normal weight.

·         The range between 24.5 and 29.9 is considered to be overweight.

·         A BMI between 30 and 40 is considered to be obese.

·         BMI of 40 and greater is considered to be morbid or extreme obesity.

Your employees can calculate their BMI by going to


CDC's website
.