WITH OBESITY RATES ON THE RISE IN THE U.S., HACKENSACK MERIDIAN HEALTH IS OFFERING PATIENTS WHO HAVE LONG STRUGGLED WITH WEIGHT LOSS A PATH FORWARD THROUGH COMPREHENSIVE, INDIVIDUALIZED TREATMENT PLANS AND SUPPORT AT THE NEWLY OPENED CENTER FOR WEIGHT LOSS AND METABOLIC HEALTH
BY AMANDA McCOY • PHOTOS COURTESY OF HACKENSACK MERIDIAN HEALTH
New Jersey resident Steve Sussmann struggled with being overweight for years. At 67 years old and 280 pounds, he had developed diabetes, asthma, pain in his hips and ankles, and sleep apnea, unaware that each of these seemingly unrelated conditions were all exacerbated by obesity. Diet and exercise alone weren’t enough to successfully lose (and maintain) weight, and after a detailed consultation and screening with physicians at Hackensack Meridian Health, Sussmann embarked on a customized weight loss journey that included a bariatric sleeve procedure along with personalized nutrition and fitness guidance. Ten years later, Sussmann has not only learned to keep the weight off through proper diet and exercise, but he also no longer needs medication for high blood pressure or asthma. “After years of struggling, that one consultation changed my life,” he said.
Over the past 20 years, obesity rates in the United States have steadily risen. In 1999, 30.5% of U.S. adults were considered obese defined as having a body mass index (BMI) of 30 or higher – and today that number has crested to 42%, or two in five adults, per data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Designated a complex, chronic disease by the American Medical Association, obesity also increases a person’s risk of developing additional life-threatening conditions, including heart disease, stroke, type 2 diabetes, and certain types of cancer, in addition to taking a toll on a person’s sleep, mental health, and overall well-being.
In response, the state’s largest healthcare network is working diligently to offer patients with obesity a path forward with the debut of the state-of-the-art Center for Weight Loss and Metabolic Health at Hackensack University Medical Center. Through an integrated suite of cutting-edge surgical and nonsurgical treatment options along with nutrition counseling, exercise guidance, and emotional support, physicians at the newly opened Center are helping patients who are struggling to lose weight achieve and maintain their weight loss goals.
“Weight management is not one size fits all,” said Hans J. Schmidt, MD, a bariatric surgery specialist and the Center’s leader. “Patients may need a program that integrates more than one approach to achieve the best results. Like with any chronic disease, it is crucial to receive the right diagnosis and explore all treatment options, under the right supervision of a dedicated, caring, and compassionate team.”
An individualized treatment plan is a key component of the Center’s philosophy. The program unites specialists from different areas, including endocrinologists, bariatric surgeons, registered dietitians, sleep medicine experts, cardiologists, fitness experts, and others, all under one roof to offer a range of weight loss techniques, with each patient’s personal plan customized to their specific needs.
The journey begins with a comprehensive pre-screening evaluation that involves: a blood test to assess metabolism and other health indicators; an electrocardiogram (EKG) to evaluate the heart for arrhythmias; an in-depth review of a patient’s health and medical history; a questionnaire about weight loss methods a patient has tried before and how they did or didn’t work; a physical activity survey; and a screening for sleep apnea, a disorder that can cause a person to stop breathing many times throughout the night.
After the screening, physicians carefully review the results to devise a detailed treatment plan that’s tailored specifically to the individual. Then the work begins, and patients meet with their physician once a month to assess progress, and challenges, and make any necessary tweaks to maximize results. Patients also have the option to participate in support groups, where they can connect with others on their own weight loss journeys, sharing feelings, experiences, and tips while fostering a sense of community.
The Center applies a multidisciplinary approach to weight loss, and patients have access to healthcare experts from several different specialties. Endocrinologists specialize in medical weight loss and diabetes treatment, while registered dietitians offer customized nutritional guidance. Fitness experts devise detailed exercise plans to guide patients toward a more active life, and experts in sleep medicine can help alleviate poor sleep, a common side effect of being overweight. Bariatric and metabolic surgeons provide a full range of weight loss surgical services, including gastric bypass and sleeve gastrectomy. Cardiologists are available to support heart health, and orthopedists specialize in the care of the bones, muscles, and joints.
“I have no doubt that other people who suffer from excessive fat accumulation presenting a risk to their health will benefit from the correct diagnosis and appropriate treatment plan devised by this team at the new Center for Weight Loss and Metabolic Health,” said Sussmann, who recently returned from a Netherlands vacation, where he walked and biked all over Amsterdam.
“The team at the Center for Weight Loss and Metabolic Health understands that weight loss is a lengthy journey,” added Dr. Schmidt. “We are committed to staying on that journey with each person for as long as it takes.”
Center for Weight Loss and Metabolic Health