Bariatric surgery can be life-changing for those who want to lose weight. But did you know that there are so many more health benefits to it besides just taking that weight off?
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Bariatric surgery can produce sustainable weight loss in those who have obesity who have not achieved long-term success with other weight loss attempts. There are different bariatric surgeries that are available. Gastric bypass and sleeve gastrectomy are the most common procedures.
Bariatric surgery reduces the stomach’s storage capacity, which limits food intake and helps you feel full much sooner than normal. Some bariatric procedures also limit the absorption of calories. Your doctor can help determine if you’re a candidate and, if so, which option will work best for you.
“Health risks may increase with higher body mass index. If you have a BMI of 35 or more, this means you likely need to lose over 65 pounds to lower your health risk.” says surgeon Walter Cha, MD. “Without making changes, you could develop serious health issues because of the excess weight. Almost all people with a BMI of 40 or more are candidates for the surgery.”
More benefits than just weight loss
Bariatric surgery offers people significant and sustained weight loss.
“Many people who need to lose 65 or more pounds have tried multiple times to lose the weight on their own,” says Dr. Cha. “While they may have some success at first, less than 5% of people keep the weight off for five years or more. In fact, patients usually gain the weight back in less than a year.”
Losing the weight and gaining it back does nothing to mitigate the potential health problems associated with obesity. You must keep the weight off for a minimum of five years to consider the loss a success and one that can result in a happier, healthier you.
The benefits of bariatric surgery go beyond just losing weight:
- Long-term remission for type 2 diabetes. One study reported that bariatric surgery causes long-term remission of type 2 diabetes. The results of this study show the procedure is highly effective for those who have obesity and type 2 diabetes, allowing almost all patients to remain free of insulin and other related medications for at least three years after surgery.
- Improved cardiovascular health. Weight loss surgery decreases a person’s risk of coronary heart disease, stroke and peripheral heart disease. Plus, one study even reported that the weight loss achieved from the surgery can help prevent the risk of death associated with stroke, hypertension and myocardial infarction. Blood pressure and cholesterol levels can return to normal, or near normal after surgery, reducing these risks and improving overall well-being.
- Relief of depression. Many people who have obesity feel depressed because of poor body image and social stigma. Even younger people who carry significant excess weight find it difficult to participate in activities they might otherwise enjoy, leading to social isolation and depression. Losing this excess weight can improve emotional health in these patients. It was found that people who underwent bariatric surgery had a 32.7% decrease in depression at the time of surgery and 16.5% decrease six to 12 months after surgery.
- Eliminate obstructive sleep apnea. Achieving and sustaining a normal weight range often allows people with sleep apnea to stop using a CPAP machine at bedtime. About 80 to 85% of patients experience remission of their sleep apnea one year after surgery.
- Joint pain relief. Carrying around excessive weight puts a lot of stress on your weight-bearing joints, often causing chronic pain and joint damage. The significant and sustained weight loss that occurs after bariatric surgery relieves the stress on joints and often allows people to stop using pain medications and enjoy much more mobility.
- Improve fertility. Weight loss surgery can also improve fertility during childbearing years. One study reported that the risk of miscarriage may decline after bariatric surgery and can improve menstrual cycles in women who don’t ovulate.
- Alleviate other medical conditions. Weight loss surgery can also relieve metabolic syndrome, pregnancy complications, gallbladder disease and more.
With obesity and its associated health complications rising at an alarming rate, bariatric surgery certainly represents a powerful tool for providing sustained relief for overweight people. When making this decision, it’s important to choose a facility with extensive experience in performing these procedures.
“Bariatric surgery is very safe and, when performed by a knowledgeable and experienced team, comes with no more risk than a knee or gall bladder surgery,” says Dr. Cha.
The best facilities have a team of experts to help guide people through pre-surgery counseling and give ongoing support afterward.
“Patients have the best chance of success when supported by an experienced medical team that includes surgeons, bariatric medical physicians, nurses, psychologists, endocrinologists, and dietitians,” says Dr. Cha.
Dietary adjustments after bariatric surgery
With their smaller stomachs, people who have had the surgery need to eat very slowly and take tiny bites.
“One of the hardest adjustments for patients is that they cannot drink liquids while eating,” says Dr. Cha. “Patients should drink their fluids at least 30 minutes before or 30 minutes after eating, but it doesn’t take long for most people to adjust.”
Those who have had the surgery also take vitamins and supplements recommended by a nutritionist who counsels patients after the procedure. Your nutritionist may also recommend meal plans and a specialized diet after your surgery.
From weight loss to overall health benefits, talk to your doctor if you’re a candidate for bariatric surgery and how you can be on your way to a healthy lifestyle.