Ah, summertime is here again and you know what that means. Warmer weather and longer days: the perfect time to remind our patients (and ourselves) to enjoy the outdoors and get active in the fresh air. Walking, riding bikes, and swimming are all ways to work out while making the most out of the season.
This is not about getting back into a swim suit, but about fighting obesity. Just last month in my inaugural address, I challenged ACOG members to join me in the fight against obesity. Why? Because, in our country alone obesity claims 300,000 lives a year. The health hazards of being obese are quite well known: diabetes, heart disease, high blood pressure and stroke. Obese women are also at a higher risk for numerous types of cancer, including esophageal, pancreatic, colorectal, postmenopausal breast, endometrial, ovarian and renal.
Approximately 36% of adult women in the United States are affected by obesity, and that number has been on the rise. Therefore, physicians have been faced with the challenges inherent in caring for these patients. As ob-gyns, we are, for many patients, the only physician a woman sees on a regular basis. Moreover, we have highly trusted relationships with our patients due to the sensitive nature of our specialty. Ob-gyns are in an ideal position to help educate women and provide counsel on the importance of a healthy lifestyle and fighting obesity.
Many times ob-gyns meet their patients at a young age, before obesity is even an issue. It’s an important time to encourage these young women who rely on us to make healthy lifestyle choices and equip them with the tools to prevent obesity. In fact, two new studies presented at The American Society of Clinical Oncology this month suggest that physical activity may reduce a woman’s risk of lung or breast cancer.
Directly relating to obstetric care, obesity is associated with an increased risk of miscarriage, premature birth, stillbirth and having a baby with a birth defect. The Cesarean delivery rate and the risk other pregnancy-related morbidities are also higher. Cesareans pose greater dangers for obese women than for normal-weight women because of increased risks associated with anesthesia, excessive blood loss, blood clots and infection at the incision site. We also know that obesity in pregnancy may be condemning the newborn to a medically complicated life, because the fetus is programmed by the epigenetic influences of maternal obesity.
Recently, I authored a guest blog post for the Obesity Board of Medicine which elaborates on these ideas and the importance of the approach to having these empathetic and constructive conversations with our patients.
Thanks for joining with me in our continued efforts to fight obesity. Have a wonderful summer and remember that it’s the perfect time of year to get active… and remember, that advice applies to US as well as to our patients. It is just as important that we pay attention to our own wellness, as healthier doctors will provide better care!