While it is a generally accepted truth that losing weight can do wonders for the health, actually achieving a weight loss goal is not easy. Healthy eating and regular exercise are proven weight loss methods but the United States Preventive Services Task Force is adding one more to the mix: behavioral counseling.

According to a literature review commissioned by the USPSTF, intensive behavioral counseling on diet and exercise should be provided to obese and overweight patients who are at risk for heart disease. This means anyone who is overweight and has high cholesterol, high blood pressure, or higher-than-normal blood sugar levels are candidates for intensive behavioral counseling sessions.

The literature review was published in the Annals of Internal Medicine and highlights 74 studies on different lifestyle interventions that proved that the inclusion of intensive behavioral counseling led to improvements in health markers after one or two years. Lead author for the literature review Dr. Jennifer S. Lin from the Kaiser Permanente Center for Health Research doesn't think this is ground-breaking information but does back up 25 years of research on helping obese and overweight patients reclaim their health.

Back in 2012, the USPSTF already recommended that doctors should consider selectively referring adults without pre-existing risk factors for intensive behavioral counseling. This literature review complements that by extending the recommendation to include obese and overweight individuals at risk for cardiovascular disease. It also updates and refines another USPSTF recommendation released in 2003 involving dietary counseling for adults at risk for cardiovascular disease.

The American Council on Exercise responded positively to the USPSTF's recommendation, saying it is a significant milestone for ACE professionals. "For the first time, an independent national recommending authority has named properly trained exercise professionals among the professions qualified to deliver behavior-change programming, which includes structured, supervised physical activity, as part of the healthcare system," notes Natalie Digate Muth, MD, MPH, RD, FAAP, ACE Healthcare Solutions Director.

As the leading cause of death in the country for both men and women, cardiovascular disease claims approximately a million lives each year or one every 33 seconds. In fact, more have died from the condition compared to all AIDS and cancer deaths combined and an estimated 80 million Americans are living with at least one type of cardiovascular disease. At this rate, cardiovascular disease will certainly be the leading cause of death in the world by 2020. Adding intensive behavioral counseling to weight loss methods, however, can change all that.

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