Are Doctors Advising Their Overweight Patients to Lose Weight?
Carrying extra weight is a major risk factor for the development and progression of osteoarthritis (OA). Studies have shown that losing just 10 pounds reduces pressure on the knee by 40 pounds, and that losing as few as 11 pounds can reduce a woman’s risk of developing knee OA by 50%. But are the doctors caring for overweight arthritis patients making the recommendation to lose weight?
What Problem Was Studied?
It has been well established that losing weight can alleviate pain and improve function for people with arthritis. It also has been established that receiving advice from a health care professional to lose weight is an important motivating factor in getting someone to begin a weight-loss program. A research team from Johns Hopkins University in Baltimore, including Arthritis Foundation-funded investigator Steffany Haaz, MFA, sought to determine how many overweight people with arthritis are advised by their physicians to lose weight to help relieve joint pain.
What Was Done in the Study?
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention conducts a telephone health survey called the Behavioral Risk Factor Surveillance Survey (BRFSS) every five years. In 2005, subsections of the BRFSS called the Arthritis Burden and Arthritis Management Modules were administered in 22 states, and 11 states administered the Weight Control Module. By analyzing the data collected through these health surveys, the research team determined the proportion of people with doctor-diagnosed arthritis who were overweight; how many of those were told by their physicians to lose weight; how many tried to lose weight; and characteristics common among the groups.
What Were the Study Results?
There were 31,165 overweight or obese individuals with doctor-diagnosed arthritis available for the analysis of whether or not they were advised to lose weight. Of these, 45.7% were advised by a doctor or other health professional that losing weight might help their joint symptoms. Respondents who were more likely to have received such advice were women, older, more obese, had higher levels of education, and reported activity limitation due to joint symptoms.
There were 10,144 individuals available for the analysis of whether or not they were trying to lose weight (this smaller sample size was due to the fact that only five states administered both the Arthritis Management and Weight Control Modules). Of the overweight or obese people with arthritis, 70% reported they were trying to lose weight. The research team was able to determine that respondents with arthritis who were advised to lose weight were nearly four times as likely to try to lose weight as those not advised to lose weight.
What Does This Mean to People With Arthritis?
Weight loss for overweight and obese people with arthritis offers important health benefits, including symptom relief and improved functioning. If you have arthritis and are overweight, make every effort to increase your physical activity and eat a healthful diet. Just because your doctor hasn’t suggested weight loss doesn’t mean it isn’t important for many reasons, including arthritis symptom management.