Weight Loss/Bariatric Surgery

Diagnosing Obesity and Metabolic Syndrome

Determining BMI

Overweight and obesity are characterized by an excessive amount of body fat. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), obesity is defined as a body mass index (BMI) of 30 or greater. BMI is calculated from a person's weight and height and provides a reasonable indicator of body fatness and weight categories that may lead to health problems. A healthy BMI is 18.5 to 24.9, while a higher BMI is associated with a risk of serious health issues.

Calculate your BMI

The multidisciplinary team at the Froedtert & the Medical College of Wisconsin Comprehensive Weight Loss Center considers BMI to determine if a person is obese. Measuring waist circumference is also helpful in determining risk of obesity-related diseases. 

Evaluation to Determine Treatment Plan

An endocrinologist at one of our Weight Management Clinics will also perform an intensive evaluation to assess your health history and any lifestyle or known genetic factors that may influence your weight. These factors may be very different for each individual.

The evaluation takes into account:
  • Root causes of overweight and obesity (Did weight gain begin in childhood or adolescence? Did it begin with a specific, significant event?)
  • Family history – to understand potential genetic components
  • Personal medical history
  • Emotional factors
  • Exercise habits and capabilities
If not already documented by your own physician, we may also screen for the following, all of which may influence your treatment plan: 
  • Hypertension (high blood pressure)
  • Lipid disorders (cholesterol problems)
  • Diabetes
  • Sleep apnea

With a complete evaluation in hand, our team has a better idea of how to form a treatment plan that will work for your individual situation, no matter what your health picture looks like.

Diagnosing Secondary Causes of Obesity

While many people have a genetic predisposition to obesity, the multidisciplinary team may also identify other (secondary) causes and monitor for complications. These conditions can be identified through:

  • Careful medical history
  • Physical exam
  • Blood tests
  • Saliva tests
  • X-rays, if needed

Being seriously overweight is not caused by one single factor. Lifestyle, diet, culture, physical inactivity, age and gender, as well as certain psychological and genetic factors, all come into play.

Secondary causes of obesity include:

  • Hypothyroidism and hyperthyroidism
  • Cushing syndrome/Cushing’s disease
  • Insulinoma
  • Brain trauma or brain tumors
  • Medications (e.g. antipsychotics, glucocorticoids, insulin)
  • Sleep disorders (e.g. sleep apnea)
  • Congenital obesity syndromes (rare)
    • Prader-Willi syndrome
    • Bardet-Biedl syndrome
  • Lipodystrophy syndromes (abnormal deposits of fat tissue)
    • Congenital generalized (no fat on the body since birth)
    • Familial partial (fat only in certain areas)
    • Acquired generalized (diffuse loss of fat)
    • Acquired partial (loss of fat only in certain areas)
    • Acquired lipodystrophy in HIV-infected patients
  • Metabolic Syndrome