When most people think of obesity, their thoughts usually don’t go much further than the notion of being overweight. But, in truth, there’s a lot more to obesity than the numbers on the scale.
According to Dr. John Romanelli, Medical Director of weight loss surgery at Baystate Medical Center, “Obesity is itself a disease that often triggers a number of severe health conditions. Over time, those conditions can become chronic, progressive, debilitating, and potentially life-threatening. For many, the struggle to lose weight is complicated by the challenge of managing those health conditions. Individuals who are unable sustain a healthy weight and are experiencing chronic conditions are often strong candidates for weight loss surgery.”
“That said,” he continues, “I want to stress that the greatest benefit of weight loss surgery isn’t dropping ‘X’ number of pounds; it’s lessening—or even eliminating—related health conditions that keep individuals from living their life to its fullest. In that regard, surgery is a powerful tool for taking control of your complete health.”
Benefits beyond weight loss
While the physical transformation many patients experience after weight loss surgery can be dramatic, Romanelli emphasizes that the greatest benefits have nothing to do with appearance. “Some studies suggests that patients who have a procedure and keep the weight off can increase their lifespan by as much as 10-11 years. Think about it. That’s a lot of years and living to be enjoyed. And I say ‘enjoyed’ because your quality of life goes up tremendously after a procedure. The opportunity is truly there to enjoy, and not just endure, your life.”
Living better after bariatric surgery
“From heart disease, diabetes, and fertility to asthma, depression, and even cancer,” says Romanelli, “being obese can impact nearly every system in your body. However, as soon as you start to lose weight, you start to improve your health. In many instances, you can completely eliminate chronic conditions and achieve an entirely new level of health.”
Some of the conditions most positively impacted post weight loss surgery include:
Diabetes: Studies have shown that 75% of patients who undergo weight loss surgery experience a complete resolution of the disease. The remaining patients also appreciated a marked improvement.
High blood pressure: Given that 75% of cases of high blood pressure are obesity-related, it’s no surprise that up to 90% of patients’ blood pressure levels return to normal or near normal range post-surgery.
Obstructive sleep apnea: Eighty to eighty-five percent of patients who achieve and sustain a normal weight post weight loss surgery experience remission of their sleep apnea within a year of the procedure with many no longer needing to use a CPAP machine at bedtime.
Cancer: Obesity increases your risk of developing certain cancers including liver, pancreatic, kidney, prostate, and post-menopausal breast cancer. However, studies have shown that weight loss surgery reduces the risk of those cancers compared to patients who do not have the surgery. In some cases, the risk has been decreased by up to 50%.
Chronic joint pain: Post surgery weight loss reduces the amount of stress placed on your weight-bearing joints. With the load lighten, that stress is frequently dramatically reduced and pain from arthritis is lessened.
Romanelli adds, “Many patients appreciate significantly more mobility after surgery. That mobility often allows them to engage with others and in activities that bring them joy; things they may not have done for years. While it’s hard to quantify general quality of life, it’s not hard to see appreciate the difference weight loss surgery can have on an individual’s overall physical and mental health.”
Learn more about bariatric surgery (weight loss surgery) at Baystate Health.