obesity related health issues and bariatric surgery

May 07, 2019 - by - in Health

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According to a 2017 report from the National Center for Health Statistics (NCHS), nearly 40% of American adults are obese. Just a decade prior, that total was closer to 35%. Every year, obesity rates among adults in the United States increase — and according to recent studies, the prevalence of some obesity-related health conditions like cancer and diabetes are on the rise as well.

Though obesity is not an uncommon condition among Americans, the consequences are nevertheless serious. If you struggle with losing weight and suffer from an obesity-related health issue, weight loss surgery might be the answer. Discover how bariatric surgery can help reduce or even eliminate symptoms of six obesity-related health conditions.

1. Hyperlipidemia (High Cholesterol)

What It Is:

Though most of us know it as high cholesterol, hyperlipidemia is the medical term for this common obesity-related condition. Hyperlipidemia is linked to:

  • A diet high in fat
  • Lack of exercise
  • Obesity
  • Diabetes
  • Kidney disease
  • Hypothyroidism
  • Genetics

Why it Happens:

When we eat a meal, our body absorbs nutrients and eliminates the rest as waste. Unlike other types of waste, however, cholesterol doesn’t leave the body. Instead, it can build up in our arteries and cause them to narrow and harden.

In overweight or obese people, there is often a buildup of LDL cholesterol (also known as “bad” cholesterol) that can lead to heart disease and even a heart attack if left untreated.

How Weight Loss Surgery Can Help:

A recent clinical research study exploring the impact of bariatric surgery on harmful cholesterol levels found that a large majority of patients experienced significant reductions in total cholesterol, LDL and triglycerides in the first year after their weight loss procedure. Of the patients studied, those who underwent a gastric bypass surgery continued to improve after the first year, while other patients generally remained stable.

2. Type 2 Diabetes

What It Is:

Type 2 diabetes is the most common type of diabetes, and is characterized by the inability to properly produce and use insulin. Type 2 diabetes is caused by a combination of lifestyle choices and genetic predispositions, and is strongly linked to obesity. This can cause dangerous spikes and dips in blood sugar which, if left untreated, can be fatal.

Why it Happens:

In a healthy body, the pancreas produces insulin, a hormone that regulates blood sugar by processing glucose out of the blood stream and sending it to be used or stored elsewhere in the body.  

When there is excess glucose in the blood for a prolonged period of time, a person can develop insulin resistance and prediabetes, meaning the pancreas is having trouble keeping up. If not addressed and reversed, prediabetes leads to the development of type 2 diabetes.

Risk factors related to prediabetes and type 2 diabetes include:

  • High blood pressure
  • Diet high in fat or carbohydrates
  • Alcohol intake
  • Sedentary lifestyle
  • Obesity

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) says that while an estimated one in three Americans have prediabetes, about 90% of those individuals don’t know they have it.

How Weight Loss Surgery Can Help:

Obesity is a primary cause of type 2 diabetes, so significant weight loss following bariatric surgery can significantly reduce symptoms associated with type 2 diabetes. According to a study in the U.S. National Library of Medicine, there is significant evidence that weight loss surgery can help in the treatment of prediabetes and type 2 diabetes.  

In fact, obese patients who also suffer from type 2 diabetes often experience a remission of their illness, which eliminates the need to take medications. According to this same study, gastric bypass is the most effective weight loss procedure for the treatment of type 2 diabetes.

high blood pressure obesity

3. Hypertension (High Blood Pressure)

What It Is:

Hypertension, often referred to simply as high blood pressure, is a condition characterized by a systolic pressure of 130 or higher, or a diastolic pressure of 80 or higher. While hypertension is usually asymptomatic, it significantly increases the chances of heart disease, heart attack and stroke if left untreated.

Why it Happens:

There are multiple lifestyle factors that contribute to high blood pressure, including:

  • Obesity
  • Smoking
  • Salty or fatty diet
  • Stress
  • Lack of physical activity

How Weight Loss Surgery Can Help:

High blood pressure is the most common medical issue associated with obesity, so it’s no surprise that weight loss surgery can help. According to an analysis of multiple studies tracking the impact of weight loss surgery on people who suffered from hypertension, a majority of those studies reported that the condition was either greatly improved or entirely resolved after surgery in many patients.

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4. Sleep Apnea

What It Is:

Sleep apnea is a condition in which a sleeping person’s breathing ceases for a period of 10 seconds or more multiple times per night. Generally, this temporary interruption in normal breathing patterns is caused by a restriction of the airway.

Why it Happens:

Some risk factors for sleep apnea cannot be prevented, including family history, age, race, ethnicity and gender. However, there are many lifestyle factors that can increase the risk of sleep apnea, including:

  • Smoking
  • Obesity
  • Alcohol consumption

According to a study published in the medical journal Chest, approximately 70% of people who suffer from obstructive sleep apnea are overweight or obese.

How Weight Loss Surgery Can Help:

According to this same study, bariatric surgery may be the answer to treating obstructive sleep apnea, noting: “Since bariatric surgery has emerged as an alternative treatment of severe or complicated obesity, impressive results have often been seen with respect to sleep apnea severity and cardiometabolic disturbances.”

gerd acid reflux obesity

5. GERD (Gastroesophageal Reflux Disease)

What It Is:

Gastroesophageal reflux disease, or GERD, is characterized by acids from the stomach backing up into the throat, causing severe and persistent pain in the chest and damage to the delicate tissues in the esophagus.

Why it Happens:

While many people experience occasional acid reflux, GERD is only diagnosed if a person experiences symptoms more than twice per week. According to the American College of Gastroenterology, about 20% of Americans have GERD, often due to increased pressure on the abdomen. Common health and lifestyle factors that contribute to GERD include:

  • Pregnancy
  • Smoking
  • Certain medications
  • Obesity

How Weight Loss Surgery Can Help:

There are two reasons bariatric surgery can help with GERD. Firstly, a reduction in excess body weight will reduce pressure on the abdomen, and in turn decrease symptoms related to painful acid reflux. Secondly, according to Obesity in Action, gastric bypass surgery can also resolve GERD symptoms in many patients because of the physiological changes to the stomach.

6. Depression

What It Is:

Depression is a mental illness that causes periods of intense sadness and apathy, affects how you think and act, and can cause or contribute to other physical or emotional challenges.

Why it Happens:

While many instances of depression can be situational, there is increased evidence to suggest that obesity may contribute to depression in some people. In fact, recent research suggests there is a strong connection between your brain and your gut, in which a malfunction in either can affect the other.

How Weight Loss Surgery Can Help:

Being overweight in itself is not necessarily a direct cause of depression, but it can be a significant contributing factor both physiologically and psychologically. Lynne Routsong-Wiechers, MSW, LISW, a physician in Dayton, Ohio who has undergone gastric bypass surgery, writes: Having weight-loss surgery causes a ripple effect and many other areas of your life will change. A person will often experience changes in their emotional state… depression may often times go away.”

While depression is a complex condition with many possible causes, for people who are obese and also suffer from depression, bariatric surgery could have a positive impact on mental health.

Your Health and Weight Loss Surgery

For people who suffer from one of these obesity-related health issues, bariatric surgery could play a significant role in improving your overall health and happiness. If you have questions about how weight loss surgery can improve symptoms related to conditions like hypertension, diabetes and high cholesterol, contact us at Soma Weight Loss.

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Dr. Joseph Naim

Dr. Joseph Naim is a bariatric surgeon serving patients in the Los Angeles, California area. After completing his undergraduate degree in biology from the University of Southern California, he attended medical school at Mount Sinai School of Medicine in New York City. Dr. Naim went on to become the chief resident at New York Methodist Hospital and completed a fellowship in minimally invasive bariatric surgery at University Medical Center in Princeton, New Jersey. Dr. Naim also served as the medical director of bariatric surgery at St. Mary Medical Center in Long Beach before starting his own practice in 2004.