Obesity Health Screening

Reviewed by: HU Medical Review Board | Last reviewed: May 2023

Obesity is a major public health concern around the globe. It can lead to a range of serious health issues, such as heart disease, diabetes, and high blood pressure. Fortunately, there are ways to detect and manage obesity early through health screening.1,2

Who screens for obesity?

A variety of healthcare providers can screen you for obesity. This includes primary care doctors, pediatricians, nurse practitioners, and physician assistants. There are also doctors who specialize in obesity called bariatric doctors, or bariatricians. Any of these professionals can perform the necessary tests to determine your risk for obesity.3,4

What does a health screening for obesity consist of?

An obesity screening looks at a combination of:3,4

  • Your medical history
  • A physical exam
  • You body mass index (BMI)
  • Your waist measurement
  • Other health issues you may have

Based on these factors, your healthcare provider may also recommend other tests, like a blood test.3,4

Medical history

One of the first things your healthcare provider will do is take a detailed medical history. This means asking about your current and past medical conditions, any medicines you are taking, and your family history of obesity or other health issues. They will also ask you about your lifestyle, including exercise, diet, stress levels, and sleep.4

Physical exam

Your healthcare provider will also perform a physical exam during a health screening for obesity. They will check your vital signs, including your blood pressure, heart rate, and temperature. They will also listen to your heart and lungs and examine your abdomen.4

Body mass index (BMI)

BMI is a screening tool used to help diagnose obesity. It is a measurement of the amount of body fat you have based on your height and weight. Your healthcare provider may use your BMI to determine if you are at a healthy weight.3,4

A BMI of 25 or higher is considered overweight. A BMI of 30 or higher is considered obese.3,4

Waist measurement

Measuring around your waist is another screening tool for obesity. Your healthcare provider will use measuring tape to measure the distance around your waist (circumference). Excess fat around the stomach is a risk factor for other health conditions like type 2 diabetes, high blood pressure, and heart disease.3-5

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), your risk for obesity increases if your waist circumference is:3

  • More than 40 inches for men
  • More than 35 inches for non-pregnant women

Blood tests

Blood work may also be done during an obesity health screening. Your doctor may order blood tests to look at your cholesterol and blood sugar levels. These tests can help determine whether you have underlying health conditions that may be related to your obesity.5

What comes after an obesity screening?

If these screening tools confirm that you are at risk for or have obesity, your healthcare provider may advise you to make some lifestyle changes. These may include changing your diet and increasing the amount of exercise you get. They may also refer you to a dietitian, an expert in food and nutrition, who can help you make a plan for healthy and sustainable weight loss.4,5

In addition, your doctor may recommend other treatment options for obesity, such as:4,5

  • Weight loss programs
  • Weight loss counseling
  • Prescription weight loss drugs
  • Weight loss surgery (bariatric surgery)

Early detection is critical

A health screening is an important step in diagnosing and managing obesity. Early detection can make all the difference in your ability to live a healthy and fulfilling life. Talk to your doctor if you feel you need to be screened for obesity.

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