More Than Just Losing Weight
An overwhelming 67 percent of American adults are overweight, defined by a BMI greater than 25 percent. Sixty-seven percent! Even more alarming, over 6 percent of American adults are morbidly obese, which translates to roughly 20 million people. This is a 400 percent increase since 1986. More than 400,000 deaths each year in the United States are attributed to obesity, and only one in seven obese individuals reaches the average life expectancy of 76 years.
Along with obesity can come a host of other serious medical problems. Some of the more common and more serious comorbidities include diabetes, hypertension, sleep apnea, heart disease, GERD and osteoarthritis.
In addition to these chronic diseases, the incidence of many types of cancer increases significantly with obesity. According to the American Cancer Society, the link between obesity and cancer is strongest in cancers of the breast, colon, esophagus, kidney, pancreas and uterus.
So how does one avoid all this misery? I'm going to be focusing primarily on morbid obesity. This is defined as a BMI greater than 35, which roughly translates to at least 90 pounds over one's ideal body weight. It is in this population that we find a clear benefit to bariatric surgery. Most people are familiar with the weight loss associated with bariatric surgery, but many people are unaware of the dramatic improvement in health that most patients experience.
Let me take a quick moment to talk more about bariatric surgery. While there are many surgical options for weight loss, we are primarily talking about the gastric bypass and sleeve gastrectomy. These two operations make up over 90 percent of the bariatric surgeries done in the United States.
Both operations are done laparoscopically and have a relatively short recovery period with a very low complication rate.
So, let's look at the data. There was a key study published last year in the New England Journal of Medicine. This study compared bariatric surgery versus intensive medical therapy for several weight-related medical issues. The results at five years showed substantially higher cure rates for diabetes and high cholesterol in the surgical group. In addition, those undergoing surgery showed a dramatically better weight loss and improved quality of life when compared to the non-surgical group.
This is something I see every day in my practice. It's not uncommon to see a patient come in for the first time taking 10-15 different medications for various ailments, and a year later, the only thing in their medicine cabinet is a multivitamin. The majority of patients are cured of their diabetes, hypertension, sleep apnea, GERD and osteoarthritis. Life expectancy increases dramatically, and people not only live longer, but have a much better quality of life. Of course, the results of surgery vary from patient to patient, but these types of results are the norm, not the exception.
Researchers are beginning to unravel what is behind all the metabolic changes seen with bariatric surgery, but there are still plenty of unknowns. What is known, however, is that bariatric surgery offers not only substantial and durable weight loss, but also a highly successful operative treatment for a host of serious medical issues. Our patients are living longer and rediscovering a new healthier life, freed from the constraints of morbid obesity. If you want to find out if surgery is the right choice for you, I encourage you to talk with a bariatric surgeon and start moving forward on a path to rediscover a new you.
Dr. James R. Barnes is a bariatric surgeon at Highland Clinic. He provides laparoscopic gastric bypass and the laparoscopic sleeve gastrectomy, as well as revisional surgery for failed lap bands and stomach staplings. He also performs other laparoscopic surgeries including gallbladder removal, hernia repair and anti-reflux surgery. He is accepting new patients and can be reached at (318) 798- 4433; located at 1455 East Bert Kouns Industrial Loop, Shreveport, LA 71105. Visit http://providers.highlandclinic.com/james-r-barnesmd/ for more information.