By Dr. Mustafa Ahmed
More than one-third of Americans are obese, according to the National Institutes of Health. For those who have battled their weight for years and who suffer from a wide range of obesity-related health problems, weight loss surgery (or bariatric surgery) may be the solution that finally helps them lose weight, keep it off, and dramatically improve their health. But, surgery is not a shortcut to losing weight and it isn’t for everyone. Weight loss surgery is a life-changing event. It can convey critical health benefits, enhance quality of life, and improve longevity. But it isn’t a way to avoid changing diet and exercise habits. On the contrary, a successful outcome is dependent on adopting and maintaining a healthy lifestyle. Every person considering bariatric surgery must thoroughly understand the consequences and weigh the decision very carefully.
Bariatric surgery refers to any surgical procedure that makes changes to the stomach or intestines that induce weight loss. There are several types of surgery that achieve that goal by different means: by restricting the amount of food the stomach can hold or by restricting the nutrients than can be absorbed or a combination of the two. Deciding whether you’re eligible for surgery and which procedure is right for you is based on several factors and is determined in consultation with a bariatric surgeon.
Am I qualified for bariatric surgery?
Medical guidelines indicate surgery as an option for those who are extremely obese – 100 pounds or more overweight or with a body mass index (BMI) over 40 – or those with a BMI over 35 who also have obesity-related health problems such as high blood pressure, type 2 diabetes, or severe sleep apnea. In addition to these guidelines, candidates for surgery have generally been unable to sustain a healthy weight by other means, even with medically supervised dieting.
Am I ready for bariatric surgery?
In addition to these guidelines, candidates for surgery are screened to ensure that they are medically and psychologically ready for surgery and committed to making the lifestyle changes necessary to be successful. Considerations for both you and your medical team to establish readiness include:
- Are you healthy enough? Conditions such as heart problems and liver disease may increase the risks of surgery or be made worse. You will have a comprehensive physical exam and lab tests to determine eligibility.
- Are you willing and able to make – and maintain – the lifestyle changes recommended by your medical team? In particular, you will be on a restricted, staged diet after surgery and your eating habits will be permanently changed.
- Are you fully informed about the risks and benefits of surgery? About pre- and post-surgical procedures? About follow-up care?
- Do you have the help you’ll need at home after surgery and the support to maintain diet and exercise regimens?
How do I get started?
The first step in your exploration of whether bariatric surgery is right for you is to find a bariatric program in your area and attend an instructional meeting or seminar. There’s a great deal of information available online, but an in-person seminar will give you the opportunity to meet the surgeon and the team and make sure you’re comfortable with them.
The next step is to have a one-on-one consultation with the surgeon to begin the discussion of your eligibility and which procedure would be right for you and to have all your questions answered. The decision to have bariatric surgery is a major step with far-reaching consequences. It will give you the opportunity to improve your health and quality of life. But as with every important life event, your future is in your own hands. Your family and friends will support you and your team will give you the tools you need to succeed. Then it’s up to you.Leave a reply →