Weighty Matters: The Relationship Between Hemophilia and Weight

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by Jennifer Lynne |

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Welcome to 2022, a new year and a clean slate.

Year after year, my New Year’s resolutions are the same: eat a more healthy diet, work out, and lose weight. This year will be different.

Recently, a nurse phoned from the specialty pharmacy that provides medication to treat my von Willebrand disease and hemophilia B. She started with the basic questions: Have your medications changed? Have you moved?

Then she asked the zinger question: Has your weight changed? “Um, yes, I have gained 15 pounds,” I said quietly. “Oh, honey, don’t worry,” the nurse said. “Since COVID-19, I’ve gained more than 50 pounds.”

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My path to obesity

My childhood was full of competitive swimming. Lap after lap kept the weight off. In my freshman year of college, a shoulder injury sidelined my swimming career. Once I stopped, I gradually packed on the pounds.

Thanks to a vegan diet and modest exercise, I lost over 35 pounds two years ago. My weight was low enough to move out of the obese category. Then came a foot injury and the pandemic. Nearly half of the pounds I lost have found their way back. Once again, I am obese.

I have started medication for high blood pressure and cholesterol, and even my liver is fatty. I am not alone in my pudginess. A study by clinical social worker Ed Kuebler found that 59% of adults with hemophilia are overweight or obese. (Learn if you are overweight or obese by calculating your body mass index here.)

hemophilia and weight | Hemophilia News Today | A bicycle with a bright pink frame and a backpack in the basket is parked on a sidewalk next to the ocean at sunset.

My bike will replace my walking shoes. (Photo by Jennifer Lynne)

Hemophilia and weight

With National Healthy Weight Week approaching in the third week of January, it’s important to discuss how weight can affect our health.

Excess weight can be harmful, especially when combined with a bleeding disorder. It’s common knowledge that obesity increases the risk of diabetes, high blood pressure, heart disease, and stroke. For people like me with hemophilia, excess weight increases the risk of bleeding because of the extra pressure on the joints. Multiple joint bleeds can lead to arthritis and chronic pain.

Decades ago, doctors advised people with hemophilia to avoid all activity. Today, exercise is encouraged. According to the National Hemophilia Foundation, exercise can positively benefit those with hemophilia. Walking, swimming, golf, and spinning carry a “low risk” designation.

The hemophilia community offers many resources. For instance, the company Novo Nordisk provides hemophilia-friendly workouts by celebrity fitness trainer Dolvett Quince.

My sedentary desk job does not help my struggle with weight. Additionally, I restrict activity to avoid pain in my foot. My foot has made it clear that walking for exercise is not an option, as it causes my foot to swell. Bearing weight on it becomes painful.

I discussed the issue of my obesity and lack of activity last year at my annual hemophilia treatment center appointment. My doctor suggested infusing clotting factors prophylactically, either on a recurring schedule or before taking walks. So far, I have avoided this suggestion. My mantra is RICE: rest, ice, compression, and elevation.

A new type of resolution

Having weathered two years of global uncertainty, committing to the standard New Year’s resolutions seems somewhat trite. Instead, I commit to kindness and compassion toward myself and others, regardless of weight. I will do my best.

Here’s to 2022.

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Note: Hemophilia News Today is strictly a news and information website about the disease. It does not provide medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. This content is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Always seek the advice of your physician or another qualified health provider with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition. Never disregard professional medical advice or delay in seeking it because of something you have read on this website. The opinions expressed in this column are not those of Hemophilia News Today or its parent company, BioNews, and are intended to spark discussion about issues pertaining to hemophilia.

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