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Considering Bariatric Weight Loss Surgery

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Surgery for weight loss is one way to treat obesity. Obesity is a term used to describe body weight that is much greater than what is considered healthy. If you are obese, you have a much higher amount of body fat than lean muscle mass. The most common cause of obesity is consuming more calories than you burn, which your body then stores as fat. Obesity is more common in our society today than it used to be. Physical activity is rarely required and is often not done by choice, and the foods that cost the least often contain the most calories and the fewest nutrients.

Although overeating and lack of physical activity may be the principal factors for obesity, there may also be genetic, metabolic and environmental influences. Certain illnesses, such as Cushing’s syndrome or hypothyroidism, and certain medications, such as glucocorticoids, can also cause obesity. However, less than one percent of all obese patients have an identifiable secondary cause of obesity.

Dangers of Obesity

Morbid obesity, also referred to as clinically severe obesity or extreme obesity, is a chronic disease that affects approximately 9 million American adults. Obesity is a significant health threat. The extra weight puts unusual stress on all parts of your body. More than a matter of carrying extra weight, severe obesity is a chronic and debilitating disease, and this condition puts you at very high risk for a number of serious medical problems. These include:

  • High Blood Pressure – Twice as common in obese adults
  • Type 2 Diabetes – More than 80% of people with type 2 diabetes are overweight or obese
  • Heart Disease and Stroke – If you are overweight, you are more likely to suffer from high blood pressure, high levels of triglycerides (blood fats) and LDL cholesterol (a fat-like substance often called "bad cholesterol") and low levels of HDL cholesterol ("good cholesterol"), all of which contribute to cardiovascular diseases like heart disease and stroke.
  • Cancer – Being overweight may increase your risk of developing several types of cancer, including cancers of the colon, esophagus, and kidney. Women who gain more than 20 pounds between the age of 18 and midlife have double the risk of developing breast cancer after menopause.
  • Sleep Apnea – A condition in which you stop breathing for short periods during the night. If you are overweight, you may have more fat stored around your neck. This can make your airway smaller which can make breathing difficult, cause loud snoring or cause breathing to stop altogether.
  • Osteoarthritis – A common joint disorder caused by excess weight that places extra pressure on your joints and cartilage, causing them to wear away. Your risk of arthritis increases by 9-13% for every 2 pounds of weight that you gain.
  • Liver Disease – If you have diabetes or "pre-diabetes" (when blood sugar levels are higher than normal but not yet in the diabetic range), you are more likely to have fatty liver disease than people without these conditions.

All of these health conditions, also known as co-morbidities, can lead to a decreased life expectancy of as much as 20 years. Therefore, surgery for weight loss may be a good option if you are morbidly obese.

Surgery for Weight Loss

If you are considering weight loss surgery in Atlanta, chances are good that you have been struggling with your weight for many years. The primary treatment for obesity is dieting and physical exercise. Although you may have tried to cut back on fat and calories on your own, a nutritionist may be able to help you make healthier eating choices. A personal trainer or fitness facility, such as the Wellness Center at Emory Decatur Hospital, can also help you to develop a safe exercise program to help you shed those extra pounds.

If you have tried changing your diet and doing regular physical activity and have not had success, anti-obesity drugs may be prescribed to reduce your appetite or inhibit fat absorption. Behavioral therapy may also be an option to help you learn new coping mechanisms or better ways to deal with things that may lead to overeating, such as stress or depression.

In severe cases, however, weight loss surgery may be the best option for achieving long-term weight control if you are morbidly obese. Weight loss surgery can also be effective in eliminating or improving the co-morbidity factors listed above. Many people are under the impression that surgery for weight loss is “taking the easy way out,” but it is important for you to understand that it is just the beginning of a lifelong commitment to a healthier lifestyle.

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