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Bariatric Surgery: It's Not Just for Weight Loss

March 01, 2022

If you have decided to have bariatric surgery, it’s likely that weight loss is your main goal. But you may also notice dramatic improvements to your physical and mental health. 

Health Conditions Connected to Obesity

Carrying excess weight is challenging both physically and mentally. Over time, obesity can take a toll on your overall health and decrease your quality of life. Hundreds of studies show the benefits of weight loss when it comes to improving overall health. 

Obesity is associated with several obesity-related health conditions and diseases, including:  

  • Cancer

  • Diabetes

  • Gallbladder disease

  • Heart disease

  • Mental illnesses like anxiety and depression

  • Osteoporosis

  • Sleep apnea

  • Stroke

  • Liver conditions like fatty liver

Bariatric Surgery Can Improve Overall Health

Each year, more than 250,000 people in the United States undergo bariatric procedures, such as gastric bypass and gastric sleeve, to lose weight.   

Here are some benefits you can expect after bariatric surgery that go beyond weight loss: 

  • Diabetes remission. Diabetes is a serious metabolic disease that can lead to significant damage to the eyes, kidneys, nerves, gums and feet. Fortunately, bariatric surgery can help reduce or even eliminate diabetes. One study found that 65 percent of people who underwent gastric bypass no longer needed medication to control their diabetes at least three years after surgery.

  • Improved heart health. When you carry excess weight, your heart works harder to pump blood, which increases blood pressure and the risk of heart attack, stroke and cardiac-related death. Bariatric surgery is linked to a significant reduction in heart attacks and strokes. One study reported that there were 60 percent fewer fatal and non-fatal heart attacks and strokes among men and women who received bariatric surgery.

  • Better sleep. Sleep apnea is a sleep disorder that causes you to stop and start breathing repeatedly while asleep. Sleep apnea occurs in 85 percent of obese people. Bariatric surgery is one of the best treatments for sleep apnea; 75 percent of patients report improvements in their sleep after surgery.

  • Relief from joint pain. Excess weight puts pressure on your joints, which can lead to pain, stiffness and limited mobility. People who have lost weight after bariatric surgery report relief from joint pain and improved mobility. 

  • Improved mental health. Obesity is a risk factor for depression and anxiety. Several studies show that bariatric surgery and the resulting weight loss is associated with improvements in self-esteem, family relationships, and quality of life. 

Prepare for a Healthier Life 

Bariatric surgery and the resulting weight loss are life-changing. Your surgeon and other healthcare providers will help you mentally and physically prepare for life after surgery. 

Your surgeon will explain what to expect before and after surgery, and a social worker or psychologist will help ensure you’re mentally prepared for what’s to come. A dietitian who will help you build healthy food habits so you get proper nutrition and maintain your weight loss. 

Achieving and Maintaining Long-Term Weight Loss 

You can expect to lose a lot of weight the first year after surgery, but as time goes on, your weight may plateau or you may even gain weight. Weight gain in the years following bariatric surgery is common, but it is preventable. 

You may need to make big changes to your lifestyle to maintain long-term weight loss. Here are some tips to help you maintain a healthy weight after bariatric surgery: 

  • Follow a dietary plan and watch calorie intake. Eat small, nutrient-dense meals as recommended by a dietitian so you get adequate nutrients and maintain muscle mass. You may also need to take dietary supplements recommended by your nutrition team. Keeping track of you daily total calories consumed will help you maintain lasting weight loss.

  • Attend follow-up appointments. Your bariatric surgeon and team will meet with you several times in the year following the procedure to provide you with support and guidance to keep your weight loss on track. After that, your surgeon may want to continue seeing you once a year.

  • Regular physical activity. Once you’ve recovered from surgery, start exercising regularly to maintain weight loss and support your overall health. Begin slowly and add more intensive exercises as you build endurance and muscle. Your surgeon may recommend specific exercises to help you meet your fitness goals.

  • Seek support. Joining a bariatric support group can provide you with emotional support from others who have undergone similar procedures. These groups are also excellent for getting advice on the various lifestyle changes you are facing.

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