Sunday, January 24, 2010

Using Telemedicine to Modify Lifestyle for Weight Loss

In a November 25, 2009 blog post, we said that "telehealth has the potential to improve the treatment of obesity and obesity-related diseases such as diabetes." And we said that "telehealth devices may elevate the treatment of obesity by making it easier to modify lifestyle." Scientists at the University of Southern California lab are developing a wearable wireless monitoring device that may assist lifestyle modification for overweight and obese persons.

In the blog post mentioned above, we cited the Free Dictionary definition of telehealth as "the use of telecommunication technologies to provide health care services and access to medical and surgical information for training and educating health care professionals and consumers, to increase awareness and educate the public about health-related issues, and to facilitate medical research across distances." Well, telemedicine is a subset of telehealth. And the above-mentioned wearable device is a telemedicine device.

In the University of Southern California lab experiment, the monitoring device was used to detect what the teenagers ate and did while wearing the device. The device's output is sent via cell phone to the researchers. Because the information received by the researchers does not depend on self-reporting, the information is likely more accurate that self-reported information. Self-reported information is often inaccurate.

The wearable sensor sends the lab reports on such things as heart rate and physical activity. There are other devices that actually track calories burned. And, still, other devices are in development that may record video for further study. All these devices might allow weight loss and weight management counselors to have a better idea of what a client is doing. And this can enable a counselor to better personalize a weight loss or weight management program for a client, enabling the client to successfully modify a lifestyle.

The counselor can collect results, determine the appropriate weight program, or modify an existing program. The counselor can then determine what diet is most appropriate and what physical activity might be the most effective.

We think these telemedicine monitoring devices could be a important tool for weight loss and weight management. Bariatric or weight loss centers should keep abreast of these tools. Indeed, including some of these items in its arsenal may allow a bariatric or weight loss center to improve its weight loss services.

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Wednesday, January 13, 2010

Obesity Gives Rise to Disability

Disability is on the rise among the elderly who don't reside in elder care facilities. According to a recent study, one of the reasons for this rise in disability is the rise in obesity. Indeed, there is a link between obesity and disability. But if more people adopt healthy living habits, this adoption could lower the levels of obesity, and thus lower the disability numbers.

The above-mentioned study was done by researchers from the University of Toronto, and the University of California at Berkeley. According to the study results, there has been a doubling of obesity over the past three decades. This doubling of obesity is associated with a rise in disability among those 65 and older. And many of these older persons are poor.

Of course, obesity-fighting treatments should be made available to all socioeconomic groups. This is especially true for the poor elderly. We believe that if this group is given access to obesity-fighting services, this group could make lifestyle changes that might lower obesity rates, and thus reduce disability levels. For this reason, we hope the current health care overall being debated will create a workable health care system.

A workable health care system would bring more of the poor elderly into the health care system. And these new entrants would increase the market for weight-loss tools, since losing weight is viewed as a way to address many health problems -- including disability.

The rise in obesity-related ailments is already an inducement to bariatric centers to refine their weight loss services. The rise in disability should be an additional motivator for these centers. Weight loss centers should emphasize the importance of a healthy weight in dealing with disability.

Weight loss centers should also prepare for the potential enactment of the health care overall. While there may be an assortment of problems with the reform under review, a workable health care system will widen the market for weight loss services. And this could benefit some weight loss centers, by giving the centers the opportunity to offer their weight loss services to more clients.


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Friday, January 1, 2010

Gastric Bypass and Adjustable Lap Band May Be Cost Effective for Treating Type 2 Diabetes

As we've all heard, today, more and more U.S. citizens are succumbing to diabetes. Furthermore, Type 2 diabetes among children is increasing. Some forms of bariatric surgery are being viewed as a viable treatment for Type 2 diabetes. Studies show that in more than two thirds of the study subjects with Type 2 diabetes, the disease was either gone or easier to control after weight loss surgery. And recent research indicates that gastric bypass surgery and the adjustable lap band are more cost effective in treating Type 2 diabetes than conventional diabetes treatment methods for persons with a BMI greater than or equal to 35.

We've noted before that some experts feel that bariatric surgery can be used for more than just weight loss. Indeed, the American Society for Bariatric Surgery (ASBS) changed its name to the American Society for Metabolic and Bariatric Surgery (ASMBS) to recognize non-weight-loss applications of gastric bypass surgery.

And the New York-Presbyterian Hospital/Weill Cornell Medical Center has started treating Type 2 diabetes using a modified version of the gastric bypass surgery used for weight loss. In the modified version of the surgery, nothing is done to shrink the stomach; only the small intestine is rerouted.

Using bariatric surgery to treat diabetes, no doubt, will receive more attention. And if it turns out that the surgery is a good, cost effective treatment for diabetes, the surgical option will become an important surgical service that bariatric surgical centers can offer.

Another item that favors surgery as a reasonable option for treating diabetes is research showing that insulin treatment for Type 1 and Type 2 diabetes causes some patients to gain weight. Gaining weight can be a negative factor in cardiovascular disease.

So depending on how viable the utilization of bariatric surgery is for treating diabetes, compared to insulin use, it may be reasonable, in some cases, to consider bariatric surgery for the treatment of diabetes for economical reasons.

Bariatric or weight loss centers should stay abreast of activities associated with the use of bariatric surgery for the treatment of diabetes. It might turn out that offering this treatment could give a weight loss or bariatric center a competitive advantage and help to lower the health care costs associated with Type 2 diabetes.

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