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Former surgeon general wages war on obesity

americans October 29, 1996
Web posted at: 7:10 p.m. EST

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WASHINGTON (CNN) -- Former U.S. Surgeon General C. Everett Koop is trying to enlist doctors in a new battle of the bulge.

Koop's organization, Shape Up America, introduced new medical guidelines Tuesday urging doctors to treat obesity as a dangerous and chronic disease to be treated with diet, exercise, drugs and even surgery.

"This document, I hope, will literally change the way physicians think about obesity," Koop said.

koop

Government officials estimate that more than a third of Americans are overweight and that 300,000 die prematurely each year as a result.

"The sad fact is that the medical community has been sitting on the sidelines while the disease of obesity has mushroomed into a public health crisis," Koop said.

New guidelines measure obesity

New guidelines are designed to help doctors determine which patients are obese and what type of treatment they need. The guidelines are based on a patient's body mass index, or BMI, which is calculated by dividing a person's weight in kilograms by their height in meters squared.

The guidelines advise doctors to intervene if a patient's BMI is 27 or greater. For someone five feet, five inches tall, that's a weight of 160 pounds. Patients with high blood pressure and other medical factors are advised to keep their weight even lower.

body.index

For people who are at low to moderate risk, nutrition and exercise are the keys. For those at higher risk for serious health problems because of obesity, weight control drugs can also be used.

In extreme cases surgery may be an option, according to the guidelines.

Measuring BMI on-line

The new guidelines will soon be featured on the Internet. Shape Up America is introducing a "cyberclinic" where Internet users can calculate their own BMI and also visit a virtual gym for advice on fitness and nutrition.

Obesity has been linked to heart disease, diabetes, hypertension, gall bladder disease, arthritis and certain cancers, including colorectal and prostate cancer in men, and endometrial, cervical, ovarian and breast cancer in women.

Correspondent Eugenia Halsey and Reuters contributed to this report.

 
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