What Is Bariatric Surgery?

Years of living with the complications of obesity often lead people to consider having weight loss surgery, known as bariatric surgery. Weight loss surgery can be a lifesaver for people who are considered obese. You might ask, “What is bariatric surgery?” The term includes various types of procedures aimed at restricting food intake and/or causing food to pass through the gastrointestinal (GI) tract without being fully absorbed or digested. Along with weight loss, bariatric surgery provides several other benefits.

Qualifying for Bariatric Surgery

General guidelines for bariatric surgery candidates include:

  • Men and women who have a Body Mass Index (BMI) that is higher than 40.
  • Those with a BMI of 35 to 40 who have another health condition, such as heart disease, sleep apnea or type 2 diabetes.
  • Women who are more than 80 pounds overweight or men who are over 100 pounds overweight.

How Bariatric Surgery Works

Whether restricting food or bypassing the GI tract, bariatric surgery is a tool to reduce hunger and appetite. It also increases the feeling of fullness or being satisfied with a smaller amount of food than before surgery. The body achieves a new balance of energy, unlike dieting, which is depriving the body. Finally, significant weight loss improves the way that the body metabolizes fat. Most people are able to return to work in one to two weeks after surgery.

Benefits of Bariatric Surgery

The primary benefit of bariatric surgery is obvious: weight loss. The benefits of the surgery may also include:

  • Achieve more consistent results than lifestyle counseling and prescriptions.
  • Improve overall quality of life.
  • Reduce or eliminate other health conditions that often accompany obesity, such as type 2 diabetes, sleep apnea, asthma, cardiovascular disease, cholesterol levels and joint problems.
  • Reduce need or dosage for medications that address obesity-related conditions. (Be sure to talk with your doctor(s) before making changes in medications).
  • Increase ability to participate in physical activities.
  • Increase self-esteem and desire for social interaction while decreasing stress and/or depression symptoms.
  • Some studies also suggest that people live longer after weight loss surgery, compared to those equally obese people who do not have surgery.

Maintaining Successful Weight Loss

Studies show that more than 90 percent of those previously affected by severe obesity are able to maintain at least 50 percent of the weight they lose after bariatric surgery. It’s important to remember that bariatric surgery is most effective for those who are willing to make significant lifestyle changes for nutrition and exercise. Another component of success is understanding the stresses that lead to overeating and commit to other ways of resolving the issues.

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