Medical Concerns


CLICK on the video above (for adults only)  – it has a hard message to swallow.  Obesity makes it much more likely that you will develop other health problems. If you think you are overweight, contact your doctor to discuss whether you have complications such as high blood pressure, high cholesterol, sleep apnea, depression, eating disorders, or diabetes.

The best treatment for all these issues is weight loss, but there are often other interventions that may help while you are attempting to lose weight.  
Some problems don’t have obvious symptoms, like high blood pressure and high cholesterol, but are still very important for your doctor to monitor.

Heartaware is a great place to start.  CLICK HERE for a free online assessment tool from Centra.



IMG_4034 IMG_4174How do doctors warn patients about health risks without scare tactics? How can doctors help patients get healthy without pills?  The data suggests that doctors are still struggling with how to give good advice to patients struggling with excess weight.  “Research shows that many physicians don’t know how to constructively discuss a patient’s weight, or they avoid the subject entirely.  The barriers for doctors include pessimism that patients can change, time limitations during appointments and inadequate training to address the topic.”

The truth is, there are no magic pills, and there are no excuses for what the “food” industry sells us with complete disregard for our health.  You have to find your way, you have to find your balance between too much and too little  when it comes to both food and exercise.   Keep it simple. Sure, there are gadgets out there – the Hapifork promises to warn you that you are eating too fast. But we know that eating meals as a family allows for the natural interruptions that create a healthy pace for a meal.  Have a family meal.  Go for a walk or a run.

As for the doctors, the path can also be quite simple.  Start with the question: “How are you doing with your weight?”




In February 2020 the World Health Organization announced an official name for Coronavirus disease 2019, abbreviated as COVID-19. In COVID-19, ‘CO’ stands for ‘corona,’ ‘VI’ for ‘virus,’ and ‘D’ for disease. There are many types of human coronaviruses including some that commonly cause mild upper-respiratory tract illnesses. COVID-19 is a new disease which can cause a wide range of effects – ranging from mild symptoms to severe illness and death. Symptoms may appear 2-14 days after exposure and include the following:

  • Fever or chills
  • Cough
  • Shortness of breath or difficulty breathing
  • Fatigue
  • Muscle or body aches
  • Headache
  • New loss of taste or smell
  • Sore throat
  • Congestion or runny nose
  • Nausea or vomiting
  • Diarrhea

COVID-19 is thought to spread mainly from person to person, through droplets produced when an infected person coughs, sneezes, or talks. These droplets can land in the mouths or noses of people who are nearby or possibly be inhaled into the lungs. Spread is more likely when people are in close contact with one another (within about 6 feet). To limit spread, health officials recommend frequent hand washing, social distancing (staying 6 ft from others not in your household), and wearing a mask when social distancing is not possible.

The global pandemic caused by COVID-19 has spread to Virginia and Lynchburg. Up-to-date numbers are here at Virginia Dept of Health.


People who are sick or know that they have COVID-19 should isolate at home. COVID-19 can also be spread by people who do not have symptoms and do not know that they are infected. That’s why it’s important for EVERYONE to practice social distancing (staying at least 6 feet away from other people) and wear cloth face coverings in public settings. Cloth face coverings provide an extra layer to help prevent the respiratory droplets from traveling in the air and onto other people. Surgical masks provide better protection, but homemade masks are protective. The more people wear them, the more protection! N-95 respirators continue to be reserved for healthcare workers and other medical first responders, as recommended by current CDC guidance.

** There was some confusion and hesitation to recommend masks for all at the beginning of the outbreak, but now we have more science to support guidelines for everyone to wear masks. Listen or read here.



Downtown Lynchburg Association

Tony Camm

2nd gear Upcycling



The good news is that kids have a lower risk of getting really sick with COVID-19.  Even if they are exposed, they have very minimal symptoms, and they have a significantly lower rate of overwhelming infection or death. In the last 4 months, there have been ZERO deaths due to COVID in the Commonwealth of Virginia in anyone under 25 years.

The other good news is that transmission from kids is low. Other countries have experimented with reopening with moderate successWhile daycare centers in the US stayed open through the pandemic, there were not a significant number of cases where kids got adults sick.

GO HERE FOR VA Dept of Ed Up-to-date Information

The American Academy of Pediatrics has come out with a strong message of support for reopening schools in the midst of the pandemic.  It is better for kids to be in school less than 6 feet apart than to learn from home online. Staying home has risks including learning loss and social isolation.   So opening schools is safe and essential for them, their education, and ultimately our economy. Working parents cannot be productive if they are also teaching.  In school, it will be important to wear masks when possible, wash hands, and stay distanced when possible. Most schools will plan to put your child in small groups that they will stay with all day. This will decrease the total number of kids that your child is exposed to, and who are exposed to your child. It will be essential to notify your school if anyone in your household tests positive for COVID-19. At home online learning will be available to children who cannot attend school due to illness.

Here is the Phased Guidance for Virginia Schools

Roanoke has posted a helpful Q&A on reopening.

Tobacco & Vaping

Tobacco is a very addictive and very dangerous. Smoking tobacco harms every organ in your body and can lead to cancer in your mouth, esophagus, stomach, liver, skin, kidneys, bladder, and colon. Smoking can lead to a stroke which injures your brain in a way that can make it difficult or impossible for you to walk, talk, work, or play. Tobacco – in cigarettes or smokeless tobacco – leads to heart attacks and death.

Nicotine replacement therapy (gum, patch, spray, lozenges) can help addicts quit by up to 100%, but only 1 in 5 smokers who are trying to quit use these therapies. For many, cost is the reason.  But if you count up how much money you spend on tobacco, you could save money in just one year by quitting! Much of the damage done by tobacco can be reversed by quitting! The Virginia Quit Line is open 24 hour to help you take the first step!

Vaping is not safer for your lungs and can often lead to tobacco use. For more information on vaping, check out VAPING 101.

Need help to inspire the next generation not to smoke?


Healthy Teenagers

healthITIt’s not fair that just as teenagers are anxious to be more independent from their parents that they have more health challenges to navigate.  So what’s a modern teen going to do instead of asking for help? Google.
Well here are some resources to share with teens to help inform them about sexuality, healthy relationships, STDs, contraception, and pregnancy.
Healthy Teen Network has tons of information
For Boys:  VOLT
Advocates for Youth – Rights, Respect, Responsibility campaignadvocates-for-youth-rights-respect-responsibility-well-you-dont-have-to-3048521

Alcohol and Drug Use

IMG_7464Alcohol and Drug Use can seriously impair your ability to maintain a healthy weight.  For some people, it can lead to overweight, for others, underweight. Either way it can lead to diabetes and other serious health problems. Read here for more information.

Drugs can be addictive and very difficult to quit. For more resources, check out Addiction Resource for information on treatment options including specific recommendations in Virginia.


vax5When we think about the health of any one person, we know that it is both affected by and affects the people around him or her.  Vaccines are an especially important tool for the health of our community, from the newest infant to the most seasoned retiree, and especially for all the thumb-sucking, hand-washing-averse toddlers, school-aged kids, and teenagers in between.  Herd immunity is only as effective as the herd maintains vaccine rates above 80%.  The very young and those citizens with compromised immune systems depend on us to keep them safe.  Vaccines help keep us all protected against serious disease.

vax2We recommend that all infants be vaccinated according to the American Academy of Pediatrics schedule.

We recommend that all adults be vaccinated.  Family and caregivers of small children should especially keep up with yearly flu vaccines, Pertussis boosters (combined with Tetanus shots), and any necessary vaccines associated with travelling outside the U.S.

While there is an excess of unscientific and speculative opinion on vaccines available on the Internet, here are some qualified resources if you have questions about vaccines:,, and



Getting Healthy!

IMG_6058Many people know that they need to make changes to get healthy, but they don’t know how to get started. We are lucky to have multiple options to help get you started.

  • Healthy Families Clinic
    Centra Medical Group has taken the latest research and created a multidisciplinary team for families with multiple members who are overweight.  Clients begin with a comprehensive assessment by a psychiatrist, dietician, physical therapist, and a physician.  This 6 month program at the downtown YMCA will require weekly visits.  Call 200-6370 to learn more!
  • The NEW Program (Nutrition, Exercise, Weight Management) This is a Centra Weight Management program at the Jamerson YMCA with new dates posted here! This 8 week program will help you improve your blood pressure and glucose levels by preparing healthy meals and exercising regularly. Call 239-9335 for more info!
  • Shapedown is an established program sponsored by Centra and located at the Jamerson Family YMCA. The emphasis is on family-centered interventions with education about the food pyramid and exercise, with special attention on parenting skills and strategies as well as confidence- building and developing responsibility in the child.  Mary Bice, R.N. is special trained in clinical education in child and adolescent obesity to be the Shapedown provider. There is a sliding- scale for fees such that all patients should be encouraged to apply regardless of income.  Referrals can be made or patients can call directly the Healthy Living Center at the Jamerson Family YMCA. (434) 237-8163.

Doctor Yum!

dryumbioThis Fredericksburg Pediatrician has some wonderful ideas on her blog for healthy recipes that are kid-tested and pediatrician approved! as well as shopping lists, musings on how to inspire the whole family to be healthy, and delicious pictures that will make you want to follow her advice.

Check out Doctor Yum!

I <3 my Heart

Heart disease is the leading cause of death for both men and women, but heart disease is preventable. How can you keep your heart healthy?heartBerry

 1. Eat a healthy diet. Choose plenty of fresh fruits and vegetables—adults should have at least 5 servings each day. Avoid foods high in saturated fat, trans fat, and cholesterol to prevent high cholesterol. More Info

2. Keep a healthy weight. Calculate your body mass index (BMI) to see if you are proportional!

RunHearts3. Exercise regularly. Aim for at least 30 minutes on most days of the week. 

4. Check your blood pressure. High blood pressure often has no symptoms, so be sure to have it checked on a regular basis. You can check your blood pressure at home, at a pharmacy, or at a doctor’s office. More Info

5. Don’t smoke.  For more information about tobacco use and quitting, click here

6. Limit alcohol use to two drinks (men) or one drink (women) per day, and women to no more than one. More Info

lovejump7. Check your cholesterol at least every 5 years. More info

8. If you have diabetes, check your blood sugar levels, and talk with your doctor about treatment. More Info

9. Take your medicine. Always ask questions if you don’t understand something.  Your heart is worth it!

How Unhealthy Am I?

Heart disease is the number one killer in the US; but we can prevent it, and even after it has begun, we can make a difference.

Your cholesterol levels, your blood pressure, your weight and your sugar levels are all worth monitoring for your heart’s sake. How unhealthy am I? CLICK HERE!

Breast Cancer

 crucialcatchHave you noticed all the tough guys on TV wearing pink?  They are doing their part to remind us that October is National Breast Cancer Awareness Month.  Many women fear this disease with good reason: it can be fatal, can be treated with disfiguring results, and can run in families.  One goal of the pink ribbons is to encourage women over 40 to get screening mammograms. But many women don’t know enough about how to prevent this disease.  One way to significantly reduce breast-cancer risk is as close as the sneakers in your closet.   A woman who exercises at moderate levels for at least three hours per week decreases her risk of getting breast cancer by 30- 40 percent; this has been demonstrated by over 25 scientific studies.  This is similar to the reduction in risk from taking the medicine tamoxifen, but without the nasty side effects. Just walking for 30 minutes a day 6 days a week could mean survival! pink4

Exercise Physiology

Standing on the scale is just one way to assess your weight.  The scale can’t tell you your percentage body fat and several other measurements that may help you maximize your exercise potential.

Body Composition testing with a Bod Pod, Maximum exercise testing, lactate threshold testing, VO2 max testing, and general fitness testing are all available by the exercise physiology team at the Walker Human Performance Laboratory at Lynchburg College.  These tests are available to the general public for purchase including . Contact the team via the website or by phone at 434.544.8476.


Every racial or ethnic group has specific health concerns. Differences in the health of groups can result from

  • Genetics
  • Environmental factors
  • Access to care
  • Cultural factors

The Center for Disease Control has statistics to show that African Americans are at higher risk for obesity, diabetes, heart disease, and cancer.

Sisters Together is just one site with resources specifically for African American women who have much higher rates of overweight (78 % vs 59% of Caucasians) and obesity (51 % vs 33% for Caucasians).

Certain hairstyling practices can result in serious hair and scalp diseases for some black women, according to expert Dr. Diane Jackson-Richards, director of Henry Ford Hospital’s Multicultural Dermatology Clinic in Detroit.  “Hair is an extremely important aspect of an African American woman’s appearance.” Proper hair care can help prevent diseases such as alopecia (hair loss) and an inflammatory skin condition called seborrheic dermatitis,

Tips to reduce the risk of developing a hair or scalp disease:

  • Wash hair weekly with a moisturizing shampoo and conditioner; Wash braids or dreadlocks every two weeks.
  • Limit the use of blow-dryers, hot combs and other heated hairstyling products to once a week.
  • To detangle hair, use a wide-tooth comb while conditioner is still in the hair.
  • Use natural hair oils with jojoba, olive, shea or coconut oils.
  • Allow two weeks between relaxing and coloring.
  • Don’t wear braids too tight and don’t wear them longer than three months.

Autism & Obesity

Autism spectrum disorders (ASDs) are a group of developmental disabilities that can cause significant social, communication and behavioral challenges. CDC estimates that about 1 in 88 children has been identified with an ASD. Because every child with an ASD is so unique, ongoing research is focused on providing essential data on ASDs, searching for risk factors and causes, and developing resources that help identify children with ASDS as early as possible.

A study published in Pediatrics recently suggests that the obesity epidemic may be contributing to the rising number of children diagnosed with autism. Researchers showed that compared to non-obese mothers, those who were obese before pregnancy had a 60% increase in the likelihood of having a child with autism and a doubling in risk of having a child with another type of cognitive or behavioral delay. This may be yet another reason to strongly consider how obesity affects our every aspect of our lives.


Obese children and adults are at high risk of developing diabetes. Increased thirst, increased urination, unexplained weight loss and thickened dark skin especially on the back of the neck can be signs of diabetes, which may require treatment with medication by mouth or shots of insulin.  Contact your doctor ASAP to discuss these symptoms.

Click here to read more about Diabetes in adults.  Click here to learn more about Diabetes in children. Watch this clip from Jamie Oliver’s Food Revolution to see a family learn about diabetes.

If you have already been diagnosed with Type II diabetes – the American Diabetes Association webpage has great resources about Living with Diabetes, Food & Fitness, as well as News & Research.

Disordered Eating

For many patients, overeating is a way of coping with stress – an unhealthy way that ultimately causes the additional physical and psychological stress of being overweight.  You may benefit from seeing a counselor who can help you reflect on how you cope with stress and to brainstorm alternate coping behaviors.

There is a new group of Overeaters Anonymous in our area.  There are several weekly meetings:

  • Saturday 9AM St. Paul’s Episcopal Church @ “Carriage House” in the corner of the parking lot behind the Church
  • Monday 7pm Mead Memorial United Methodist Church Route 29 South
  • Tuesday 7pm At the Kirk in Forest VA.

 Contact Bev  at 434-426-5853 or Mary P at 434-656-1472 for more info.


Click “Read More” to take the Eating Disorders Quiz  Read More


The inability to sleep, loss of interest in activities that you used to enjoy, and thoughts of hopelessness can all be signs of depression. If you are depressed, contact your doctor to discuss treatment options.

Sleep Apnea

Snoring and interruptions in your breathing at night are signs of sleep apnea which can lead to daytime sleepiness and if persistent, heart problems.  Ask your partner if you snore or if you seem to stop breathing for more than a few seconds.

Contact your doctor about these symptoms.

Bariatric Surgery

When diet and exercise haven’t succeeded or when serious health problems due to excess weight exist, many people consider weight loss surgery – called bariatric surgery – which changes the digestive system to help people lose weight by limiting how much one can eat. These surgeries are complicated and may have significant risks associated.

Usually, before bariatric surgery for adults is considered, the patient must have a minimum body mass index (BMI) of 40  (this means about 80-100 pounds or more above ideal body weight) OR a BMI of 35, along with other major medical conditions (such as heart disease, Type II diabetes, degenerative joint disease or obstructive sleep apnea) AND the patient has been unable to lose weight and keep it off.  Want to check your BMI? Click here

Pediatric bariatric surgery has even more strict requirements.  The adolescent must have documented 6 months of organized weight loss attempts without success.  Also, the BMI must be greater than 40, the child must have mature bones (generally 13 years of age for girls and 15 years of age for boys), and he or she must have other medical problems related to obesity.

Referrals for bariatric surgery

Centra Weight Loss Services: Dr. Josh Alley  (provides seminars about the process). 434.200.3901

UVA Adults & Children: Dr. Bruce Schirmer (434)924-2104 or (434)924-9954

Carilion Roanoke (540)224-5170 or (877)827-2836