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TMI on BMI? Geisinger letters raise issue


February 19. 2013 7:46PM
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Should doctors tell patients they need to lose weight or change lifestyles?


The issue arose this week when Geisinger family practice offices sent 20,000 letters to patients about their body-mass index and suggested ways to get healthy.


Some recipients were offended, but a Geisinger spokesman said Thursday that was not the intent.


The recent letter … from seven family practice offices was a proactive approach to help people be healthier and was in no way intended to offend patients, Matthew Van Stone, a spokesman for Geisinger said Thursday.


This letter was meant to educate our patients about the numerous health benefits of a healthy BMI while also encouraging them to engage their physician for added support in achieving the goal of a healthy, fulfilling lifestyle, he said.


The letters were part of Gov. Tom Corbett's statewide Chronic Care Initiative, which calls on local physicians to work with their patients to manage chronic conditions and prevent hospitalizations, Van Stone said.


Eating less and exercising more is the mantra Dr. Rick Martin said he repeats often to encourage patients to live a better life and significantly reduce health problems.


If you lose weight, you'll feel better, Martin, a family practitioner in the Geisinger Health System, said. (Being healthier) reduces the risk of very serious potential health problems as you get older, such as diabetes, cholesterol, arthritis and high blood pressure that can lead to stroke, blindness and heart attacks.


Martin said he sees between 25 and 30 patients a day in his 30-year-old practice.


About one-third of his older patients and one-half of his younger patients would probably benefit from weight reduction, he said.


Lifestyle change needed

A healthy lifestyle is natural for some, like Alex Lombard, who was at Danko's All American Fitness Center in Plains Township Thursday afternoon.


Diet and exercise go together, Lombard, a senior at East Stroudsburg University from Buck Township majoring in exercise science, said. There's a lot of benefits, having more energy, more self-esteem and having a prolonged life in the end.


It's a lifestyle change, Larry Danko, owner of Danko's All American Fitness Center said of being healthy.


Join a club, get the proper help and change your diet, Danko said. Once you get the right help, you'll see results.


Like other clubs, Danko's offers trainers for those who need an extra push in the right direction or simply don't know the first thing about a gym, or group fitness for those who feed off the motivation of others.


Seeing results is the key for people, Danko said, noting that once people see their hard work pay off, they'll come back for more.


Nutritionist weighs in

Joy Armillay, a nutritionist at Misericordia University who also runs a private practice, said that while eating healthy is important, it's more about changing one's behavior.


Armillay said she uses a non-diet approach and addresses eating behaviors in helping patients achieve the goals they are looking for.


Getting a patient to stay away from behaviors such as snacking and not skipping meals is one way to address weight management.


You have to think about what you want to achieve that will make you feel better, not thinking about what you want to stay away from, because that's what you'll think about most, Armillay said.


She urges patients to avoid processed food, and turn to fruits, vegetables and whole grains.


Half of Armillay's practice deals with patients who have eating disorders and includes those who want to manage their weight.


It's a total lifestyle change, Armillay said, noting a person's thinking, habits and physical exercise play a role.


Both Martin and Armillay said Northeastern Pennsylvania is likely among one of the most overweight regions.


Martin said that in bigger cities people use public transportation or walk more often, leading to lower BMIs and that for generations this area hasn't been one of carrots and lettuce because of ethnic heritages.


We're unhealthy eaters, Armillay said.




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