Just over 93 million Americans are considered obese, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. It’s an epidemic that takes a tremendous toll on the nation’s health. Weight-loss, or bariatric, surgery is one solution. John Yadegar, MD, Medical Director of the Bariatric Program at PRMC, explains what you need to know about weight-loss surgery.
Q: Who is a good candidate for weight-loss surgery?
Someone who struggles with obesity and has tried non-surgical approaches to weight loss, including lifestyle changes and exercise, but hasn’t been able to lose weight and keep it off. Patients have to have a body mass index (BMI) that is greater than 35 with a co-morbidity such as diabetes or sleep apnea. Those with a BMI of 40 or above don’t have to have a co-morbidity. We want the patient to be well-informed about the process and fully committed to the long-term lifestyle changes that are needed for success.
Q: What would you tell an individual who is interested in bariatric surgery?
I would encourage them to meet with patients who have been through this process. It’s one thing to hear statistics, but it’s the quality-of-life issues that really touch the patient. To hear somebody say they can now sit on an airplane without a seatbelt extender or that they went horseback riding – these are the stories that strike a chord.
Q: What are some misconceptions that people have about weight-loss surgery?
That the surgery is going to take care of everything. That’s just not the case. Surgery is a tool. After that it’s up to the patient to make lifestyle changes, improve their nutrition, take their supplements and attend follow-up appointments. And while the patient also has to be realistic about expectations, it’s important to understand that this is the best, most significant and most well-sustained option that we have to date.
Q: What should individuals considering weight-loss surgery know?
Resolving obesity is not just about improving conditions like diabetes, cholesterol, high blood pressure and sleep apnea. It can resolve dozens of other medical challenges. For instance, it can help with migraines, carpal tunnel and urinary incontinence. It can also reduce the risk of some cancers and help improve fertility. Patients have a lot to gain from losing the weight.