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Jan 17, 2012

Is Weight Loss Surgery Safe and Effective?

Weight loss surgery helps patients keep weight off and reduce heart disease risk.

With nearly two-thirds of the U.S. population overweight or obese, weight loss is one of the most basic ways that we can improve the cardiovascular health of the nation. Losing just 5–10% of one’s body weight can have a direct impact on health, reducing blood pressure and cholesterol and improving quality of life. But if you have ever struggled with your weight, you also know that shedding pounds can be one of the most difficult goals to achieve. Why? Sometimes the American lifestyle—oversized portions, processed foods and lack of physical activity—can get in the way, despite our best intentions. At other times, it can be difficult to find a weight-loss plan that actually works, helping individuals to lose weight and keep it off. Once traditional diet and exercise has failed, some start to consider whether weight-loss surgery is a truly safe and effective option.

The good news is that a growing body of evidence shows that weight-loss surgery is not only safe but helps people lose weight and significantly improve their health and outcomes. One study published in the Journal of the American Medical Association showed that among more than 4,000 obese subjects, those receiving weight-loss surgery lost about 23 percent of their body weight within two years and kept most of this weight off twenty years later. This reduction in weight translated into fewer cardiovascular events and deaths in comparison with the control group, who did not receive weight-loss surgery. And most importantly, this study also demonstrated that, overall, weight-loss surgery is safe. In fact, there were roughly one-third fewer deaths in patients undergoing surgery in comparison with those receiving standard medical care.

However, researchers point out that weight-loss surgery is still not safe for all obese individuals. Obese patients with other factors that might further complicate surgery are often ineligible for weight-loss procedures, as the benefits do not outweigh the elevated risks. So while weight-loss surgery is not right for everyone, it can prove extremely effective in helping some to lose weight and improve overall health.

Questions for You to Consider

  • How does weight-loss surgery work?

  • There are a few types of weight-loss procedures available to help patients who are very overweight lose weight, including lap banding, gastric bypass and gastric sleeve. These surgeries limit the amount of food that you can ingest, and some also restrict the amount of food that your body can digest.
  • Am I eligible for weight-loss surgery?

  • Weight-loss surgery is often an option for obese individuals who have not seen results with diet and exercise. However, not all patients are eligible for surgery if they have other risk factors that could complicate the procedure. If you are interested in surgery, discuss your concerns and weight-loss options with your healthcare provider.

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