Bariatric surgery is very effective at producing weight loss in obese patients. It involves restricting the size of the stomach so less food is able to be eaten and/or changing the structure of the gut so food eaten is not absorbed as much. This powerful weight loss tool has the added benefit of curing type two diabetes and improving other conditions such as hypertension, arthritis and sleep apnea and may result in a longer life.
However, bariatric surgery is not a quick fix for everyone. Like any major procedure, it has health risks and side effects. In addition, the long-term success of bariatric surgery depends on your ability to make permanent changes in your lifestyle. Here are some signs that you are ready to consider weight loss surgery.
1. You are severely obese (BMI 40 kg/m2). The body mass index or BMI is a measure of the ideal weight for a given height. The normal ranges between 18.5 - 24.9 kg/m2. Once you have as much excess fat so as to fall in the severe obesity range, your chances of losing and keeping the weight off are slim. Surgery may be the only hope of decreasing your chances of developing chronic illnesses such as diabetes and heart disease, and dying early.
2. Your BMI is between 30- 39 kg/m2 with chronic diseases. If you are obese and are affected by type two diabetes, high cholesterol, hypertension or sleep apnea, then surgery may cure or reduce the burden of your disease. Patients post-surgery are often able to decrease the amount of medication needed or come off medication completely.
3. You have failed in attempts at diet and exercise. If regular exercise and dedicated dieting have not given you the results you expected, bariatric surgery may help in achieving your weight loss goals.
4. You are motivated. You have decided that you are going to change your life by losing weight and keeping it off. You are willing and able to follow through with recommendations made by your health care team and to carry out the changes in your diet and exercise routine.
5. You are free of significant psychological disease. Certain mental health conditions contribute to obesity or make it more difficult to retain the health benefits of bariatric surgery. These may include eating disorders, substance abuse and depression.
6. Your age is appropriate. There is no age limit for bariatric surgery. However, the risks increase if you are older than age 65. Some doctors do not recommend bariatric surgery for patients below 18 years of age.
7. You have no contraindications to surgery. Some diseases such as ulcers, liver disease, blood clots, some heart diseases, and vitamin deficiencies increase the risks of surgery or may be worsened by surgery. Certain tests may be done before surgery to make sure you are fit to undergo the procedure.
8. You are well informed. Having done your research on the surgical procedures, their side effects, and what is expected of you after surgery, you are knowledgeable enough to know that this is the choice you want to make to make a healthier you.