Women between the ages of 40 and 60 are the subject of new national guidelines aimed at preventing unhealthy weight gain that can lead to serious illnesses. The study summary document and clinical guidelines are published in the Annals of Internal Medicine.
“More than two-thirds of middle-aged women are overweight or obese. Given the increased risk of weight gain in women in midlife, there is a critical need for intervention to prevent obesity and the many health issues associated with it,” said Kimberly D. Gregory, MD, MPH, corresponding author of the clinical guidelines and vice chair, Quality and Performance Improvement in Women’s Health Care at the Department of Cedars-Sinai Obstetrics and Gynecology.
Gregory is part of the Women’s Preventive Services Initiative (WPSI), which developed the recommendations based on reviews of clinical trials involving nearly 52,000 middle-aged women. The initiative was started in 2016 by the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists and works in conjunction with the US Department of Health and Human Services, Health Resources and Services Administration.
“In the past, most studies and recommendations have focused on investigating the pros and cons of weight loss tools used by women who were already overweight. But as a prevention strategy, these new guidelines strongly encourage healthcare providers to begin addressing weight and obesity risk in patients who are normal weight,” Gregory said.
Obesity has been declared epidemic in the United States, with 42% of adults having a body mass index (BMI) over 30, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). A BMI of 18.5 to 25 is considered healthy, and one between 25 and 30 is considered overweight.
According to the study, women gain an average of 1.5 pounds per year during their 40s, increasing their risk of transitioning to an overweight or obese BMI. The new guidelines emphasize the need to assist with weight management by counseling women while they are at a healthy weight and without waiting until they are overweight or have developed obesity.
“Women are at higher risk for severe obesity due to menopause and age-related physiological changes,” said Amanda Velazquez, MD, director of obesity medicine in the Department of Surgery at Cedars-Sinai. . “Significant weight gain is associated with a serious risk of developing cardiovascular disease, hypertension, type 2 diabetes, fatty liver disease and many cancers. This is why it is essential to advise middle-aged women having a normal to overweight BMI the need to limit weight gain,” said Velazquez, who was not involved in the study.
The WPSI review suggests that some behavioral counseling approaches aimed at preventing future weight gain in middle-aged women may result in modest weight loss. Obesity and weight loss expert Velazquez says it’s important to remember that weight management is a lifelong journey and an investment in good health and there are a lot of help available.
“Don’t give up. It’s never too late to start making changes. There are many weight management tools out there, including individualized lifestyle plans, support groups that provide accountability, and community , nutritional counseling and new weight-loss medications. For people with severe obesity, a BMI over 40, bariatric surgery may be an option to consider,” Velazquez said.
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Material provided by Cedars-Sinai Medical Center. Note: Content may be edited for style and length.