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Bariatric Surgery Helps Your Heart— Here’s How

March 31, 2022

Your heart functions best when you are at a healthy weight. Just as a four-cylinder engine doesn't have the needed power to propel a full-sized pickup truck, your heart becomes strained when extra body weight requires it to work harder. This added cardiac stress can lead to a number of other serious health issues and increase your risk for cardiac events, like heart attacks. 

Bariatric surgery can help. 

Ways Obesity Affects Heart Health 

One issue directly related to this added strain is ventricular hypertrophy (LVH), a condition caused when the heart muscle is overworked, thickening the inner walls of the heart’s left pumping chamber, resulting in a loss of elasticity and decreased blood flow. Symptoms from LVH include shortness of breath, heart palpitations and chest pain, and it is often accompanied by other serious heart conditions, such as arrhythmias and heart valve disease. 

Obesity is also an indirect cause of many heart issues, most stemming from atherosclerosis, or the buildup of plaque and fatty deposits in your arteries. These include: 

●      High blood pressure, or hypertension, which results when fatty tissue increases vascular resistance, causing the heart to work harder and increasing your risk of coronary heart disease and stroke.

●      High LDL cholesterol. Low-density lipoprotein (LDL) is the “bad” cholesterol (or plaque) that forms in your arteries. Often due to a poor diet and sedentary lifestyle, high LDL cholesterol is a leading contributor to heart disease.

●      Diabetes develops when your blood sugar levels are too high, putting you at risk for heart disease, vision loss and kidney issues.

●      Sleep apnea  is a disrupted sleep and breathing pattern, often the result of added weight and pressure in the neck and chest. These fluctuations then trigger irregular blood pressure and heart rates. This can cause inflammation in the blood vessels, leading to heart attack or stroke. 

How Bariatric Surgery Can Help Your Heart 

Health problems stemming from obesity can be a vicious circle, with each physical decline negatively affecting another. 

By drastically reducing the stomach’s size, bariatric surgery offers a break in that cycle by altering your eating habits, setting the stage for a successful weight loss program. 

As the post-bariatric weight begins to come off, several positive results are now set in motion: 

●      A lower body-mass index (BMI) and weight immediately eases the heart’s need to overexert itself, reducing the risk of heart failure or stroke.

●      Reduced inflammation and mobility pain to your joints and back allow for increased activity levels, which in turn gives your heart a healthy “workout.”

●      Decreased pressure on your lungs and passageways reduces sleep apnea-based interruptions, not only lowering your risk of heart attack but often allowing a reduction of medication and treatments.

●      Hormonal shifts to GLP1, a hormone that reduces appetite and regulates glucose, reducing risk of Type 2 diabetes complications. In some cases, bariatric surgery can even reverse the effects of Type 2 diabetes entirely

Like other major surgeries, for bariatric surgery to be a success, your medical team will need to monitor and guide your recovery. Your bariatric surgeon will work with your cardiologist to track shifts in blood pressure and cholesterol. Your dietitian will work with you to create a heart-healthy meal plan that supports your altered digestive tract. And a physical therapist or trainer can put you on a gradual exercise plan that both helps keep the weight off and rebuilds and strengthens muscles, including your heart.

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