Prescription Medications to Treat Overweight and Obesity
What are overweight and obesity?
Health care providers use the Body Mass Index (BMI), which is a measure of your weight in relation to your height, to define overweight and obesity. People who have a BMI between 25 and 30 are considered overweight. Obesity is defined as having a BMI of 30 or greater. You can calculate your BMI to learn if you are overweight or obese. Being overweight or obese may increase the risk of health problems. Your health care provider can assess your individual risk due to your weight.
Obesity is a chronic condition that affects more than one in three adults in the United States. Another one in three adults is overweight. If you are struggling with your weight, you may find that a healthy eating plan and regular physical activity help you lose weight and keep it off over the long term. If these lifestyle changes are not enough to help you lose weight or maintain your weight loss, your doctor may prescribe medications as part of your weight-control program.
How do weight-loss medications work?
Weight-loss medications are meant to help people who may have health problems related to overweight or obesity. Before prescribing a weight-loss medication, your provider also will consider:
- the likely benefits of weight loss
- the medication’s possible side effects
- your current health issues and other medications
- your family's medical history
Health care professionals often use BMI to help decide who might benefit from weight-loss medications. Your doctor may prescribe a medication to treat your overweight or obesity if you are an adult with:
- a BMI of 30 or more or
- a BMI of 27 or more and you have weight-related health problems, such as high blood pressure or type 2 diabetes.
Weight-loss medications aren’t for everyone with a high BMI. Some people who are overweight or obese may lose weight with a lifestyle program that helps them change their behaviors and improve their eating and physical activity habits. A lifestyle program may also address other factors that affect weight gain, such as eating triggers and not getting enough sleep.