Are you a candidate for weight loss surgery?

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If you’re overweight, chances are you know the struggles that come with trying to shed excess pounds. (istockphoto.com)

If you’re overweight, chances are you know the struggles that come with trying to shed excess pounds. Perhaps you’ve tried rigid diet programs, signed up for support groups or services, or taken up an exercise routine. Maybe those options worked in the short term, but then number on the scale creeps back up and you’re right back where you started. Weight loss surgery could be your ticket to a more permanent solution. You are likely a candidate if…

Your BMI is very high

In the simplest terms, body mass index (BMI) is a height to weight ratio. You can use the CDC's Adult BMI Calculator to find out yours. A high BMI is typically attributed to a high percentage of body fat, which can put someone at risk for many health conditions. According to Dr. Prashanth Ramachandra, a bariatric surgeon with Mercy Fitzgerald Hospital and Mercy Philadelphia Hospital, you could be a good candidate for weight loss surgery if you have a body mass index of 40 or higher. If your BMI is below 40 but you have weight-related health issues like diabetes, heart disease, sleep apnea, high cholesterol, etc., you could greatly benefit from the surgery. Call your physician to see if you will qualify.

You’re also a good candidate if…

You suffer from a chronic, weight-related disease

Being severely overweight can lead to a number of chronic illnesses such as type-2 diabetes, sleep apnea, and joint pain or discomfort. The most important and urgent step you can take to improve your overall health is significant weight loss. While weight loss may not be a guaranteed cure for diseases such as the ones listed above, losing a significant amount of weight will greatly increase the likelihood that you’ll find relief of some kind, particularly when it comes to joint pain and sleep apnea. Chances are you know this and have attempted to lose the weight already. Bariatric surgery may be for you if…

You’ve tried everything else without success

The fact of the matter is, most diets fail. A 2013 study found that two out of five dieters will quit their new eating plan within the first seven days, with only one out of five making it to the one-month mark. “Failing” at a diet can make you feel pretty badly, like nothing you try will ever work. One major upside to choosing weight loss surgery is the support group that comes with it. Prior to surgery, you would meet with professional nutritionists who will help you modify your diet and learn new, better habits. After surgery you’ll be able to meet with support groups and speak with others who have had weight loss surgery and who understand the weight loss struggle. You can also take fitness and wellness classes with other bariatric surgery patients. This network of support and resources will greatly increase your chances of permanent success.

Types of weight loss surgery

Once you’ve made the decision to have weight loss surgery, you’ll need to consider the different types of procedures available to you.

Gastric bypass surgery is typically done laparoscopically, meaning through a small incision with minimal intrusion. This procedure restricts food intake and shortens the digestive track by creating a small gastric pouch from the upper portion of the stomach. Food is swallowed into the pouch instead of the stomach, and this limits the amount that can be eaten. The food then bypasses the first part of the small intestine and is diverted slowly into the small bowel for digestion. Patients who have gastric bypass typically lose 50 to 75 percent of their excess weight over the next year.

Sleeve gastrectomy is a procedure which works mainly by reducing stomach volume – the stomach is divided vertically and 80 to 85 percent of the stomach is removed; a vertical “sleeve” shaped tube is created from the remains of the stomach. This procedure is particularly effective because it removes the part of the stomach that produces Ghrelin, a hormone that stimulates appetite. This reduces, but does not eliminate, a person's appetite.

With Gastric banding, the surgeon places an adjustable band around a portion of the upper stomach, creating a small chamber also known as a gastric pouch. This allows for food to be directed into the pouch instead of the stomach, causing a feeling of fullness. Patients who have this procedure can expect to lose 40 to 60 percent of their excess weight within three years, on average.

Weight loss surgery, like any major medical procedure, requires serious consideration. Before deciding if it’s right for you, you should consult your primary care physician to go over all risks and available options. But if you’re suffering from illness, can’t find a diet that works, and are ready for a major life change, weight loss surgery may be the solution you’ve been looking for.

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