How Do You Know if You Need to Go on Weight Management Medication?


How Do You Know if You Need to Go on Weight Management Medication

If you have been trying to lose weight, and have been finding it difficult, you are not alone. A survey of Americans who have tried to lose weight showed that 44% have struggled over the past decade and even ended up gaining weight.

The approaches to losing weight include lifestyle changes such as changing your diet and exercising. These alone may be enough for others to lose weight, but some may need more help. Some have needed to go on more structured fitness regimes or even undergo surgery for weight loss devices.

There has been more readily available information on the use of prescription weight loss medications in the past two decades. In the early 2000s, phentermine and orlistat were the top medications. More recently, there has been increasing interest in medications called GLP-1 agonists like Ozempic, as well as GLP-1 programs which combine these medications with lifestyle changes and professional support.

If you are wondering if you are a good candidate for these medications, read on for some basic information:

Prescription medications

The FDA has approved only a few medications for use in weight loss. The commonly-prescribed ones are semaglutide, (Wegovy, Ozempic), tirzepatide, (Zepbound, Mounjaro), liraglutide (Saxenda), phentermine Adipex, Suprenza), and orlistat (Xenical and Alli).

Phentermine is used to lessen appetite. Orlistat decreases the amount of dietary fat absorption. Semaglutide, tirzepatide, and liraglutide work by mimicking a body hormone called GLP-1 which helps lower blood sugar and decrease appetite at the same time. Tirzepatide also mimics GLP-1 in addition to mimicking another hormone called GIP to affect insulin also to control blood glucose and prolong fullness.

Qualifications for weight loss medications

All these medications are only to be prescribed by licensed physicians – preferable obesity specialists. A complete medical examination is needed, since numerous medical conditions can cause weight problems, impact the plan for weight loss, and interact with the medications. Additionally, medications should be used in conjunction with diet and exercise.

After assessment, medications may then be considered only for people who have tried lifestyle changes and meet one or more of the following conditions:

BMI equal or greater than 30

Weight loss medications may be prescribed if the person has obesity. Obesity is a serious medical condition which involves accumulation of excess fat in the body. A BMI equal or greater than 30 falls in the category of obese.

Body mass index (BMI) is a measure of body fat based on height and weight. The formula for BMI is kg/m2 where kg is a person’s weight in kilograms and m2 is their height in meters squared. There are simple BMI calculators which may be used to determine if you qualify under this category.

BMI equal or greater than 27 with one or more obesity-related conditions

A person with a BMI of 25–29.9 is categorized as overweight. An overweight person with BMI of 27 or greater can qualify for weight loss medications only if they have been diagnosed with conditions that are related to obesity such as high blood pressure, type 2 diabetes, high cholesterol, or obstructive sleep apnea.

These conditions can complicate weight loss attempts because of limitations to lifestyle and the use of other medications which can interact with weight loss drugs. These can also increase all the more the health risks associated with remaining overweight.

Have not lost at least 5% of their total body weight in three to six months with lifestyle changes alone

A healthy diet and exercise bring several health benefits including weight loss. These lifestyle changes, along with smoking and alcohol cessation, can help a person lose around 10% of initial weight in 16-26 weeks. If there is a difficulty in losing weight with lifestyle changes alone, the individual may qualify for weight loss medications.

If you checked off one or more of the conditions above, you may need help with your weight loss journey. Consult your doctor for proper assessment and to discuss your options. 

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