Obesity has reached epidemic proportions in our country. Currently, about 15 million Americans — including growing numbers of young adults and children — are considered morbidly obese. The National Institute of Health defines morbid obesity as being 100 pounds or more above an ideal body weight, having a body mass index of 40 or more, or having a body mass index of 35 and one or more co-morbid conditions, such as Type 2 diabetes or high blood pressure.
But so many people — whether morbidly obese or simply overweight — find losing weight and keeping it off to be a never-ending battle. Wouldn’t it be nice if there were a “magic bullet” for weight loss – a pill or procedure that would magically melt away the pounds for good? While no such prescription exists as yet, thousands of obese people are lining up for bariatric surgeries that seem to be the closest thing to a miracle cure available today.
Christopher Hart, M.D., bariatric surgeon and medical director of the Atlanta Bariatric Center at , says that while bariatric surgery may seem like a drastic measure, the benefits are numerous. In addition to the positive cosmetic effects, the surgery also reduces the long-term mortality associated with obesity.
“The fact of the matter is that being obese can kill you,” states Dr. Hart, noting that a procedure called vertical sleeve gastrectomy is quickly growing in popularity among patients. “Sleeve gastrectomy offers the best of gastric bypass and the best of lap-band surgery. It’s the only bariatric procedure where something is removed from the body — approximately 70 to 80 percent of the stomach, to be precise. And yet, it has the least risk of long-term complications.”
More than 90 percent of Type 2 diabetes is resolved and more than 80 percent of high blood pressure is cured in patients after sleeve gastrectomy. Most people report being able to significantly reduce or eliminate the amount of medicine they take for conditions such as diabetes, high blood pressure and high cholesterol.
Patients tend to lose weight quickly after the procedure due to the removal of a portion of the stomach and, along with it, an appetite-stimulating hormone called ghrelin. Many people notice a steep decline in their appetites in addition to decreased stomach capacity after surgery, both of which assist with weight loss.
Dr. Hart cautions that anyone considering bariatric surgery should first talk with an experienced bariatric surgeon about what options are available and appropriate. Additionally, no matter which type of surgery a patient chooses, they should be prepared not only for the surgery itself, but also for major lifestyle changes — such as making drastic changes to their eating habits and stepping up their exercise program for life — afterward.
For those who haven’t been able to win the battle against obesity by dieting alone, a comprehensive approach to weight loss — including sleeve gastrectomy or other bariatric surgeries, combined with proper nutrition and exercise — may be the most successful weapon yet.
Emory Johns Creek Hospital is home to the Atlanta Bariatric Center, designated a Center of Excellence by the American Society of Bariatric Surgeons. For more information, log on to www.atlantabariatriccenter.com or call 678-474-8222.