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Benefits of Bariatric Surgery for Weight Loss

Weight loss is the first thing that comes to mind when you hear about bariatric surgery. Did you know the procedure is associated with many other health benefits throughout the body?

How does bariatric surgery work?

Typically recommended for patients with a BMI of 40 or higher, or those with a BMI of 35-39 and accompanying health problems. There are two common procedures, a sleeve gastrectomy and the other is a gastric bypass. Both make the stomach smaller, limiting the volume of food patients can eat.

Next, surgery has a hormonal impact on the body. When food enters the small intestine quickly, it turns on a hormone called GLP1, which helps you feel fuller and helps to control blood sugar.

Finally, it is difficult to lose weight on a diet because the body senses what is happening and burns less calories. The opposite occurs after surgery.

“What’s truly remarkable about bariatric surgery is when you’re losing weight, your metabolism actually goes up,” said John Morton, MD, system lead for surgical quality and bariatric services at Yale New Haven Health.

That successful weight loss can lead to improved cardiovascular health, reduced risk of cancer, reduced risk of severe COVID-19, remission in sleep apnea, diabetes and orthopedic issues.

Heart health

Heart health

Dr. Morton said the heart is “remodeled” after bariatric surgery. If the heart has less to work against, it becomes more efficient. The lining of blood vessels improves and patients see blood pressure go down. Good cholesterol goes up by about 20 percent and bad cholesterol goes down by about a third.

Studies show patients with bariatric surgery have less risk of readmission to the hospital when they have congestive heart failure. These markers of cardiovascular health are closely followed three months, six months and then annually after surgery.

Diabetes

Patients with diabetes can benefit greatly from bariatric surgery. There is about an 80 percent remission rate of diabetes with no medications within one year of surgery.

Dr. Morton points out that while insulin is lifesaving, it can also be weight promoting. Sometimes patients get in a cycle of needing more insulin, resulting in weight gain. Bariatric surgery can make a big difference.

Sleep apnea

Sleep apnea isn’t just a minor nuisance. It affects quality of life, productivity during the day and is even a risk of premature death. Unfortunately, there are some challenges when it comes to treating sleep apnea. For example, CPAP machines, used to treat sleep apnea, are difficult to fit on patients properly.

However, most patients do not require CPAP machines at least 80% of the time after bariatric surgery. A sleep study can confirm improvements for patients but Dr. Morton said a simply test is to ask if they can dream, which shows the ability to go into a deep REM sleep.

“Patients can literally dream again,” he said. “For many patients, things they put on hold, the ability to interact with their family members or do the best they can at work is now given a new lease on life.”

Orthopedics

knee pain

Some patients who seek help from an orthopedist for knee or joint replacement may end up with a referral for bariatric surgery first. Patients with increased BMI who undergo orthopedic surgeries are at an increased risk for complications including wound infections and increased risk of blood clots.

The good news is the recovery time after bariatric surgery is quick. Many patients can have joint replacement just six months later.

Lifestyle

Dr. Morton said bariatric surgery is a very safe and effective procedure with little risk. He has seen firsthand the impact it has made on the lives of his patients. Often times, bariatric surgery is the inspiration for others making changes to their own lifestyle.

“I did a study a few years ago called the hallow effect for bariatric surgery and what we found was patients who had surgery not only lost weight but their family members did too,” Dr. Morton said.

Interested in bariatric surgery? Learn more about the bariatric surgery services we offer.