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Weight loss is generally a challenging process, as it is determined by different factors such as genetics, eating habits, physical activity, and lifestyle. However, some research suggests that those with disabilities tend to struggle with their weight more than the average person. And this can change depending on the type of disability the person has. For those with intellectual disabilities, obesity prevalence ranges from 17.6% to 38.3% compared to 11.8% to 28% for the general population. Furthermore, research from Boston University also found that those dealing with mobility-related disabilities are susceptible to obesity due to a lack of functional mobility and physical fitness. Since obesity presents health problems such as cardiovascular complications, type 2 diabetes, and hypertension, weight loss is necessary to curb these risk factors.

One of the most recognized ways for effectively addressing obesity is through medical weight loss, which was designed to target chronic weight issues. However, given the complexity of weight in its relation to health, it is worth looking into the capacity of medical weight loss as the right approach for people with disabilities.

Defining medical weight loss

Supervised weight loss is not anything new, as fitness trainers and dieticians are often contacted to create programs for their clients to follow within a set period of time. However, those with disabilities and other health issues may require a more specially customized plan that is able to accommodate their unique and sensitive conditions. Often, these conditions include genetics, mobility limitations, and medications that can each complicate regular weight management. This is where medical weight loss comes in, as it is attributed to the process of losing weight with the help and guidance of a medical professional, typically a doctor. Unlike common programs that target losing weight via just diet and exercise, medical weight loss involves FDA-approved medications that level the playing field for weight regulation. To date, medical weight loss interventions are deemed effective, as they can result in up to 15% of weight loss.

That said, given that these medications may cause side effects due to off-label prescriptions, there are specific requirements that patients have to satisfy. Namely, to be eligible, patients must meet a certain body mass index (BMI) and medical requirements. Typically, those with a BMI of over 30 are easily qualified. However, those with a BMI of 27 and above with qualifying conditions such as high blood pressure can also be considered, given the significant need for weight loss in this disease. Some of the most common medications in medical weight loss are Semaglutide, Liraglutide, Naltrexone-Bupropion, and Orlistat.

Is medical weight loss safe for those with disabilities?

Weight loss is not a one-size-fits-all strategy, even with medical support. While the medications used here are FDA-approved and administered in strict doses, everyone reacts to the drugs differently. As such, consult with your doctor first to check if you can be prescribed these medicines. In some cases, the weight loss medication may complement your current care plan, as some were originally intended to address other conditions that may be part of your disability. For example, Wegovy can be used to treat diabetes. On the other hand, other medications like Ozempic may not work well with medications like diuretics, beta-blockers, and antibiotics, as these can cause hypertension.

Furthermore, it is also important to consider that these medications are not a quick fix for weight loss. Overall, health changes are essential in seeing results since medications are just one part of a treatment plan to help achieve and maintain weight loss.

As such, weight loss can also start with changes in your dietary habits that are compatible with your condition. For instance, wheelchair users or those with limited mobility will need to consume fewer calories than the standard recommended amount. However, it is still important to focus on nutrient-rich food. On the other hand, if your disability is developmental, it may help to adopt mindfulness practices that can substitute food-related coping mechanisms. If you have a carer, it pays to loop them in so they can help you apply healthy, well-rounded habits.

Overall, medical weight loss is generally safe for those who qualify, since the prescribed medicines are all clinically tested and regular medical consultation is included. However, since those with disabilities may require more considerations in light of how medications work for them, For more disability resources and news, please check our website.