The American Heart Association released its first ever scientific study specifically on bariatric surgery (published in the March 14th, 2011 edition of Circulation) and how it affects risks of heart disease. The study concluded that weight loss surgery may be the best treatment for some severely obese people.
Researchers in the United States and Canada assessed the heart risks of obesity versus the risks of bariatric procedures and found that for many, the benefits of surgery outweigh the overall risk of surgery. Benefits of weight loss surgery include lower weight, reversal or improvement of type-2 diabetes, lowered blood pressure and improvement or elimination of high cholesterol and sleep apnea. These benefits can help in reducing the risk of cardiac problems as well as a host of other chronic diseases.
Obesity is becoming an epidemic in the United States and according the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), more than one-third of the American population is obese and more than five percent of the population is considered extremely obese. The most recent figures from the American Society for Metabolic & Bariatric Surgery from 2009 show that more than 200,000 people had weight loss surgery in the United States in that year.
Health risks are high for those who are considered obese, including higher risk of diabetes, heart attacks and strokes. Lead author of the AHA report, Paul Poirier, MD, PhD says that many diet, exercise and weight loss medicines may not be enough for these people: “Substantial long-term successes from lifestyle modifications and drug therapy have been disappointing, making it important to look at surgical options.” Of course the risks of surgery must be weighed in individual patients.
While surgery is not for everyone, and does have risks, it may be particularly beneficial for those who are extremely obese (BMI over 40) and for whom traditional medical weight loss has not worked.