If you or a loved one is overweight, it can be frustrating to hear from your doctor that you need to get in better shape. You may know it’s true, but understanding how to successfully shed unhealthy pounds is a different story. Now, obesity, blood pressure, and cholesterol experts have published new guidelines that help health professionals provide concrete steps to address weight problems. The Problem with Obesity An estimated 69% of Americans are overweight or obese, which increases the risk for a host of health problems. These include high blood pressure, high cholesterol, type 2 diabetes, heart disease, stroke, osteoarthritis, gallbladder disease, sleep apnea, and some cancers. It can also increase your overall chance of dying. The good news is that shedding even a little weight can go a long way toward reducing your health risks. According to the new guidelines, losing 3% of your weight and keeping it off can lower blood pressure and cholesterol, as well as reduce the risk of developing diabetes and heart disease. To achieve these benefits, a person weighing 200 pounds needs to lose just 6 pounds. And the more weight you take off, the bigger the health benefits. Identifying At-Risk Patients But how do healthcare providers help people make weight loss a reality? The guidelines recommend assessing patients’ body mass index (BMI) at least every year to determine if they need treatment for weight issues. Those with a BMI of 25 or greater are considered overweight. People with a BMI of 30 or greater are obese. You can calculate your own BMI using height and weight measurements. Developing a Weight-Loss Plan For people who are overweight or obese, the guidelines help healthcare providers tailor a treatment plan that includes a reduced calorie diet, increased physical activity, and counseling/behavioral support. For the greatest chance of success, they suggest patients connect with a professional, such as a dietitian, psychologist, or weight-loss counselor. This means that it’s OK—and even preferable—to ask for help. Everyone agrees that losing weight isn’t easy. By enlisting help from a professional, you can increase your chance of success. Ask your doctor about weight-loss programs in your area. Experts suggest that meeting with others face-to-face to discuss these issues is ideal. But Web- or phone-based programs can help, too. Often, weight-loss programs are covered by insurance. When Surgery Is Necessary The guidelines also state that for some people, bariatric surgery may provide significant health benefits. Healthcare providers are encouraged to recommend surgery to patients who have a BMI of 40 or greater, or those with a BMI of 35 or greater who have other chronic health problems. The guidelines don’t recommend one type of bariatric surgery over another. To learn about surgical options, talk with a bariatric surgeon. Personalizing Your Weight Loss Keep in mind that when it comes to weight loss, what works for one person may not work for another. For example, the guidelines recommend a reduced calorie diet but acknowledge there are many ways to achieve it. The key is to find a plan that fits your personal preferences and health needs. Although the guidelines outline specific ways your doctor can help you achieve a healthy weight, it’s important to take control of your own health. If necessary, take the initiative and ask your doctor about steps you can take to lose weight and get healthy. Remember, it might not be easy, but you can be successful with effort. Key Takeaways: According to new guidelines, losing 3% of your weight can lower blood pressure and cholesterol, as well as reduce the risk of developing diabetes and heart disease. Healthcare providers should assess patients’ body mass index (BMI) at least every year to determine if they need treatment for weight issues. The guidelines help healthcare providers create treatment plans that target diet and exercise and include counseling/behavioral support. Healthcare providers should discuss surgery with people who have a BMI of 40 or greater, or those with a BMI of 35 or greater who have other chronic health problems.