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Seeing Obesity as a Chronic Disease

Last updated: June 7, 2022

Losing extra weight around the middle isn’t always as easy as just cutting calories or taking up running. It is a change that does not happen overnight. By understanding obesity and recognizing the challenges of the chronic disease, the dedicated team of professionals at ThedaCare can help you get your health back on track. 

Obesity is Complex

Many health organizations, including the American Medical Association, view obesity as a chronic illness. One in six adults across the United States are impacted by obesity, and nearly all suffer from at least one of its related conditions. 

Obesity is a complex illness that can have many causes. “I firmly believe that obesity is a disease, but just like other diseases, it’s multifactorial,” says Dr. Kevin Wasco, a general surgeon and co-director of the ThedaCare Bariatrics Program. 

Factors like genetics and family history play a role in becoming obese. “It’s not just people choosing to be overweight. Certainly, genetics is one of the strongest variables,” Wasco says. 

Beyond genetic predisposition, an individual’s metabolism, hormones, diet, and lifestyle are all key components to their weight management. If any imbalances exist in those areas, people are more likely to struggle with their weight. 

A Healthier You

Individuals can combat obesity in many ways, including working with a registered dietitian and joining group fitness classes. Patients who meet specific criteria also may be candidates for weight loss surgery. 

The ThedaCare Bariatrics program, while not designed to be a fast fix, can be life-changing. “We’re focusing on prevention when appropriate,” Wasco says. “We’re also having the appropriate people go to surgery.” 

We’re focusing on prevention when appropriate. We’re also having the appropriate people go to surgery.

Dr. Kevin Wasco, General Surgeon and Co-Director, ThedaCare Bariatrics Program

Treating obesity also can mean addressing other medical issues. “We really work on people’s diabetes, sleep apnea and metabolic processes,” Wasco says. “It’s about making a difference in people’s lives.” 

Surgical intervention can be a valuable tool for many patients, but there is a process leading up to surgery. “There are a lot of variables, including a patient’s desire, the patient’s timeline of what they have planned, and how they want to go about it,” Wasco says. “It’s got to be patient-driven.” 

Bariatric patients undergo detailed medical screenings prior to surgery, including a physical and testing for pulmonary and cardiac clearance. They also meet with a psychiatry professional and participate in the eight-week Bariatric Life Skills program. “We have to take a really good record of their health history,” Wasco says. “It’s a good scouting mission before surgery to keep them safe.”

Investing in Health 

Patients interested in surgical weight loss options should verify coverage with their health insurance provider. While other options are available when it comes to financing surgery, it ultimately is an investment in your health, wellness, and future. 

Insurance companies — and Medicare — are increasingly offering coverage for bariatric procedures. The cost is justified, as statistics show an overall decrease in the cost of treatments for other health issues related to obesity. 

According to the International Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health, obesity-related costs reach upward of $147 billion per year. This includes treating related conditions such as diabetes, cardiovascular diseases, and hypertension. By addressing the root of the problem, health costs can decrease significantly. 

The benefits of controlling a chronic illness such as obesity are limitless. “It’s rewarding to see people who were inactive become able to do everything they want to do,” Wasco says. “To see them be really active, run races, travel the world, and do things that you would not believe, is just incredible.” 

It’s rewarding to see people who were inactive become able to do everything they want to do. To see them be really active, run races, travel the world, and do things that you would not believe, is just incredible.

Dr. Kevin Wasco, General Surgeon and Co-Director, ThedaCare Bariatrics Program

Managing excess weight with the help of surgery also has significantly impacted patients’ ability to work. By addressing health concerns, patients are becoming more productive in the workplace, and in turn, they lose less time on the job due to obesity-related ailments. The change also reduces costs.

“They’re saving money because they’re not having lost time at work and not spending so much on their medicines,” Wasco says. 

Change Your Life

Addressing weight issues and taking the steps to reverse obesity is metamorphic. “We see so many people who have turned their life around in every way imaginable,” Wasco says. “That’s a really rewarding part of the surgery.” 

Obesity is a treatable condition, and ThedaCare is committed to helping patients live life to the fullest. Contact your primary care physician or the Bariatric team to begin your journey to good health. 

Tags: Bariatric surgery Dr. Kevin Wasco obesity Weight Management

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