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Study finds bariatric surgery can reduce cardiovascular risk

Main Line Health October 18, 2018 Nutrition and Weight Management

Bariatric surgery rates have increased steadily over the past several years. Last year, approximately 228,000 people underwent some type of bariatric surgery. That’s 70,000 more surgeries per year than when the American Society of Metabolic and Bariatric Surgery began tracking these rates in 2011.

There’s good reason for bariatric surgery’s popularity and prevalence. As America’s obesity rate continues to climb, more people are looking for a long-term, sustainable weight loss option. While diet and exercise should always be the ‘first stop’ on the road to weight loss, this traditional method doesn’t work for everyone. Furthermore, diet and exercise aren’t always effective in curing obesity-related co-morbidities.

Bariatric surgery, on the other hand, has been proven effective in helping people lose weight and reducing other conditions that could be impacting quality of life, including asthma, joint pain, arthritis, liver disease and—now—heart disease and stroke.

Bariatric surgery can significantly reduce cardiovascular risk

According to research published in the Journal of the American Medical Association, patients with both severe obesity and type 2 diabetes who underwent bariatric surgery reduced their risk for cardiovascular events by 40 percent in the five years following surgery.

This is a significant decrease for people with obesity and diabetes, who are already at an increased risk for heart disease and stroke—diseases that claim millions of lives every year. It’s enough to make cardiologists consider bariatric surgery as a potential treatment option.

“One in two diabetics will die of complications from cardiovascular disease. A 40 percent reduction in cardiovascular risk is a compelling talking point in our conversations with obese diabetics who struggle to lose weight,” says Kevin Shinal, MD, a cardiologist at Paoli Hospital, part of Main Line Health.

It shouldn’t—however—be the only treatment option. Dr. Shinal says health care providers should discuss other approaches first before seriously considering bariatric surgery. Richard Ing, MD, FACS, medical director of the Bariatric Program at Bryn Mawr Hospital, part of Main Line Health, agrees.

“This study reaffirms the benefits of bariatric surgery and the difference that it can make in the lives of people who have long struggled with their weight and, in turn, their health. However, I do caution anyone from turning to surgery as a ‘cure-all.’ Long term weight loss and disease management require, above all, a commitment to a healthy lifestyle.”

Am I a candidate for bariatric surgery?

People who have severe obesity and diabetes may be candidates for bariatric surgery but, before you approach your health care provider, it’s important to understand all of the factors that might make you a surgery candidate. In order to qualify for bariatric surgery, you must:

  • Be at least 18 years old
  • Have a body mass index (BMI) of:
    • 40 or greater with no additional risk factors
    • 35 or greater with additional risk factors (diabetes, cholesterol, high blood pressure or sleep apnea)
  • Have weight-related quality of life impairment
  • Be willing to participate in long-term follow-up care
  • Be willing to take prescribed vitamins and minerals, as needed

If you meet all five of these qualifications, you may be a candidate for weight loss surgery.

Manage your weight and diabetes by making lifestyle changes

If you have a lot of weight to lose, make an appointment to talk to your health care provider and develop a weight loss plan that works for you. He or she can connect you with a nutritionist and a fitness plan that will help you begin to manage your weight, and offer medications or therapies that address weight-related health problems you may be suffering from.

If these methods still aren’t helpful in reducing your weight and improving your health, your health care provider may discuss bariatric surgery with you. But even then, it will still be important to focus on healthy behaviors.

“Should you and your health care provider ultimately decide that you want to pursue bariatric surgery, you’ll still need to make several modifications to your lifestyle in the weeks and months before surgery to change your diet, lose weight and be more active,” explains Dr. Ing. “The earlier you can begin to adopt and practice these new healthy habits, the better.”

Let Main Line Health help you take control of your weight

Losing weight can feel like an uphill battle, especially if you’ve been struggling with your weight for a long time. Main Line Health’s Nutrition and Weight Management program can help, with free online and in-person seminars, personalized diet plans and a team of weight management specialists.

Main Line Health serves patients at hospitals and health centers throughout the western suburbs of Philadelphia. To schedule an appointment with a specialist at Main Line Health, call 1.866.CALL.MLH (225.5654) or use our secure online appointment request form.