If you are obese, a recent study shows that bariatric (weight loss) surgery can help you live a longer life.
That was the finding of a recent Swedish study that compared two groups of obese adults. One group underwent bariatric surgery, such as the gastric sleeve, while the other group of participants received the standard level of obesity care.
Before the study was conducted, scientists had a feeling weight loss surgery increased a patient’s lifespan, but by how long remained unclear.
The Swedish study provided clearer answers as to how much life is gained by opting for a weight loss procedure.
Lena M.S. Carlsson, MD, PhD, professor of clinical metabolic research at Sahlgrenska Academy at the University of Gothenburg reported, “Now, for the first time, we have been able to estimate how much bariatric surgery prolongs life expectancy for the average patient. But it’s important to point out that patients are different, and our results indicate how many life–years are gained on average. The 3-year average increase in life expectancy can, therefore, not be translated into life-years gained for a specific patient.”
In other words, opting for bariatric surgery can help you live a healthier and longer life. How much longer is up to a range of factors, including genetics, environment, diet, exercise level, and ratio of good to bad health habits.
Another study conducted by researchers from McMaster University and St. Joseph’s Healthcare Hamilton in Ontario, Canada followed 13,000 obese individuals, all of which had undergone weight loss surgery.
The researchers compared that group with 13,000 other obese patients who were eligible for bariatrics but who did not opt for surgery. Then they assessed the risk of dying for both groups. The data focused on whether age, gender, and BMI at the time of surgery had an impact on the patient’s level of survival.
After a five-year follow-up, the researchers found a lower risk of death among those who underwent bariatric surgery, as opposed to receiving a standard level of obesity care.
There is also good news for older obese bariatric patients. Participants of the study who were 55 years or older had a 48% lower risk of dying than those who did not have surgery. As far as gender was concerned, the study found that men and women both received the same benefits from their weight loss procedures.
What is Considered High-Risk Obesity?
Doctors use the Body Mass Index (BMI) scale to determine a person’s level of body fat. They calculate BMI by taking a person’s weight in kilograms and dividing that number by the square of height in meters. A high BMI indicates obesity or severe obesity.
Obesity is defined as having a body mass index between 30 and over 40. Severe obesity is defined as a BMI of over 40.
To decrease your level of risk of illness and early death, the CDC suggests the standard level of obesity care. This is the same level of obesity care the control group received before they were compared to weight loss surgery patients in the two studies above.
What is the Standard Level of Obesity Care?
Prescriptions: Your general doctor can write prescriptions to control your obesity. These medications can suppress hunger, increase energy levels, and cause you to eat less.
Nutrition Counseling: A dietician can be prescribed to help with meal planning and preparation. Knowing how and when to eat can help in your struggles to lose weight.
Fitness Help: A personal trainer can help you get into better shape, which can reverse some obesity related concerns.
For some, however, diet and exercise do nothing to combat obesity. If this describes you, your weight might remain stagnant or get heavier on the scale for reasons beyond your control. Age, genetics, bad eating habits, depression, anxiety, and lack of physical fitness can all contribute to obesity.
Obese Children Are Also at Risk
Another Swedish study showed that childhood obesity increases the risk of premature death from middle age onward.
So what are you to do when you know obesity leads to a greater risk of early dying and the standard level of obesity care fails to work? Bariatric surgery may be the answer you seek.
Why Are the Obese at Greater Risk of Early Death?
Being obese on its own does not raise your risk of early death, as long as you are metabolically healthy with no other metabolic risk factors. It’s those risk factors that can shorten your life. Let’s look at some of those now.
Risk Factors That Can Lead to Early Death
Type 2 Diabetes
Type 2 diabetes is the most common type of diabetes and largely runs in the family. Other risk factors for the disease include low activity levels, poor diet, and greater amount of weight around the waist.
Greater than 87% of adults with diabetes are overweight or obese. Losing weight can help to prevent or delay the onset of diabetes.
High Blood Pressure
High blood pressure (hypertension) often has zero symptoms, but it can lead to serious issues, like stroke, heart disease, and kidney failure. Normal blood pressure comes with a reading of 120/80 mm. You will sometimes hear this referred to as 120 over 80.
The problem arises when the top number (systolic blood pressure) grows to 140 or higher or the bottom number (diastolic blood pressure) becomes 90 or higher. Both readings indicate that the individual has high blood pressure.
Having more weight can increase the amount of pressure your heart needs to pump the body’s blood supply to all of your cells. Excess fat also damages your kidneys, which tend to help with regulating blood pressure.
Losing weight with a tool like bariatrics can help bring your blood pressure back under control.
Heart disease is an umbrella term that describes several problems that can affect the heart. In many cases, the blood vessels that carry blood to the heart harden and constrict. When this happens, the heart has to work harder to get the blood it needs to function properly. Other symptoms of heart disease include heart failure, angina (chest pain), sudden cardiac arrest, and abnormal heart rhythm.
Heart disease is the leading cause of death in the United States. People who are overweight or obese often have health problems that can make them more susceptible to heart disease. These ailments include high cholesterol, high blood sugar, and high blood pressure.
Losing as little as 5 to 10 percent of your overall weight with the help of bariatric surgery can lower your chances of developing heart disease.
Cancer is when cells that comprise one part of the body, such as the colon, grow out of control. These cancerous cells can spread to other parts of the body, such as the lungs. Cancer is the second leading cause of death in the United States.
Overweight and obese individuals are at an increased risk for several cancers. It’s thought that fat cells release hormones that affect cell growth, which can lead to cancer. Being overweight puts you at higher risk for developing certain specific cancers, like breast, colon, gallbladder, and kidney cancer.
Weight loss via surgery may lower your risk for cancer, though studies have been inconclusive.
Sleep apnea is a condition that causes you to stop breathing during sleep. You may suffer from daytime sleepiness and difficulty focusing. Sleep apnea can also lead to heart failure.
Obesity is the most critical risk factor for sleep apnea. Overweight individuals carry more weight in their neck areas, making their airways smaller. With a smaller airway, the individual has to struggle to breathe. This results in loud snoring or a cessation of breath activity altogether for short periods of time.
Fat stored around the neck and throughout the body may also produce substances that cause inflammation, which act as risk factors for sleep apnea.
Weight loss through surgery can help to improve sleep apnea and lessen the development of inflammation in the body.
Osteoarthritis is a common health issue that leads to pain and stiffness in the joints. The pain can be felt in the hands, knees, lower back, and hips.
Being overweight is a prime risk factor for osteoarthritis. This is because extra weight puts extra pressure on joints and cartilage, causing them to wear away. More body fat increases the level of blood borne substances that cause inflammation, which increases your risk for developing osteoarthritis.
Dropping body fat with weight loss surgery can reduce your risk of developing osteoarthritis.
Fatty Liver Disease
Fatty liver disease (nonalcoholic steatohepatitis (NASH)) is when fat builds up in the liver, causing injury. The issue can eventually lead to cirrhosis (scar tissue), liver damage, or even liver failure.
For most people, fatty liver disease produces zero or mild symptoms and the cause is still not known. The disease tends to affect middle-aged individuals, as well as those who are overweight or obese (and/or have diabetes), and can include children.
While there is no specific treatment for fatty liver disease, studies show that lowering your body weight to a healthier range can improve liver tests and reverse the effects of the disease. Weight loss surgery and obesity care can help.
Your kidneys are responsible for filtering blood, removing extra water, and filtering waste products from the body. Your kidneys also control blood pressure, so your body remains healthy. Kidney disease is when your kidneys become damaged, making them unable to filter blood properly, causing waste to build up in the body.
Obesity can increase the risk of diabetes and high blood pressure, both of which cause chronic kidney disease. Even if the person is not diabetic and does not suffer from high blood pressure, obesity may promote chronic kidney disease and hasten its progress, according to some studies.
Losing weight can slow the progress of chronic kidney disease for those in the early stages. Weight loss surgery can help to facilitate the necessary drop in body fat that can delay the disease.
Being overweight and obese raises the risk of health problems for mother and child. Pregnant women who are obese are at risk for gestational diabetes (high blood sugar while pregnant), preeclampsia (high blood pressure during pregnancy that can cause severe issues for mother and baby if left untreated), and the need for a C-section. Women who are overweight while pregnant can also take longer to recover after giving birth.
Babies of overweight or obese mothers are at increased risk of being born premature, being still born, and having neural tube defects (defects that affect the brain and spinal cord).
If you are overweight or obese and would like to become pregnant, your health care provider can help you lose weight first. Weight loss surgery in the months before becoming pregnant can help you reach a normal weight. Being of a healthy weight reduces your chances of developing pregnancy related health issues.
Pregnant women who are overweight or obese should speak to their doctors about limiting weight gain and increasing physical activity during pregnancy.
Weight Loss Surgery Can Extend Your Life
Now that you know the factors that put you at risk for early death, and you know that bariatric surgery can help you live a longer life, the question remains: Which bariatric surgery is right for you?
Two of the most common weight loss procedures being performed today for obesity care are the gastric sleeve and gastric balloon.
The gastric sleeve procedure is a weight loss surgical procedure that helps to restrict the amount of food you eat. Your surgeon will place you under general anesthesia, meaning you will be asleep for the duration of surgery. Using tiny incisions and a laparoscopic camera, your doctor will cut away approximately 80% of your stomach. The remaining portion of your stomach will be fashioned into a sleeve. This smaller space limits the amount of food you can consume during meals. As a result, you will eat less.
The gastric sleeve also affects the hormones that regulate fullness and hunger. You will find yourself less hungry after undergoing the gastric sleeve. You will also feel fuller during meals. Not only will you be forced to consume fewer portions, but you will wind up eating less, resulting in fast weight loss.
With the help of a tool like the gastric sleeve, patients are expected to lose 40% to 60% or more of their excess weight in the first two years. The majority of weight loss happens in the first year with the weight loss tapering as you reach a healthier weight.
While the gastric sleeve is a permanent procedure, the gastric balloon is an implantable device that is removed after six months. The surgeon will implant the inflatable device in your stomach using a plastic tube. Your bariatric surgeon will inflate the balloon laparoscopically, which involves a minimally invasive procedure. Once the balloon is inflated it will fill up space in your stomach, limiting the amount of food you can eat. You will also feel yourself consuming less with the gastric balloon, making it an excellent starting point for your weight loss journey.
When the six months have passed, your doctor will remove the balloon device. The doctor can replace the gastric balloon with another device or the patient can go on to opt for a permanent solution to obesity, such as the gastric sleeve.
Bariatrics Are Safe & Effective for Weight Loss
With COVID-19 threatening the health and lives of men and women across the globe, it’s time we put a focus on health. When you find yourself unable to lose weight using standard obesity care, bariatric surgery can facilitate the necessary weight loss.
Schedule Now to Live a Longer, Healthier Life!
If you are overweight or obese and find yourself wondering if bariatric surgery is right for you, a consultation with world-renowned weight loss surgeon Dr. Moein can give you answers. Dr. Babak Moein is the only surgeon in Southern California who is dually trained in bariatrics and cosmetic body contouring. Dr. Moein can help you lose weight and shape your body afterward. The latter can increase your quality of life, while the former can help to extend it. Get started now by calling Healthy Life Bariatrics in Los Angeles, California. (310)694-4486.