Author: S. Bledsoe, M.D.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the leading cause of death in the United States is heart disease. According to the World Health Organization, the leading cause of death in the world is also heart disease. It is also well know that “obesity is associated with an increased long-term risk of cardiovascular death and hospital admission from a wide range of cardiovascular problems in addition to coronary heart disease.” While there are a few possible solutions, one solution that is gaining traction is weight loss surgery.
A recent article published in the Journal of the American Medical Association illustrates the reason very well. According to the study, bariatric surgery reduced the number of cardiovascular deaths and events in obese adults. This highlights the importance of weight loss surgery as a treatment for obesity. Weight loss surgery is one of the most effective ways to address the leading cause of death in America and worldwide. While this study addresses
the clinical endpoint of death or a cardiac event, many other studies elucidate for us the reason WHY there are fewer deaths and events after bariatric surgery. Bariatric surgery addresses cardiac risk factors.
In 2011, Drs. Benraouane and Litwin with the Division of Cardiology at Georgia Health Science University published a review in Current Opinions in Cardiology that validated the reduction in cardiac risk factors. Hypertension, dysplipidemia, and diabetes were but a few diseases that impart increased cardiac risk that was shown in this review to be diminished after weight loss surgery. This reduction in risk factors would decrease the 10-year risk of cardiac event for patients by an estimated 50%. They concluded by stating that “these encouraging data support the continued, and perhaps expanded, use of surgical procedures to induce weight loss in severely obese patients.” This is a strong vote of confidence for the benefits of bariatric surgery on heart disease by the Chief of Cardiology at a major teaching hospital.
Anecdotally, I have personally witnessed this improvement in patients within my own practice as well. As their diabetes, hypertension, sleep apnea, hyperlipidemia improves or resolves, the risk of heart disease also drops. I could tell you story after story of patients who have experienced this remarkable turn-around in their CV risks. One gentleman in particular comes to mind though.
Jim was a 62 year-old man who was about 125 pounds overweight. He had significant heart disease and had numerous heart stents in the past. He was on over a dozen medications for diabetes, hypertension, and high cholesterol. He had tried numerous times to lose weight by the conventional means and was unable to make any progress. His surgery helped him lose that 125 pounds and keep it off. He was able to get off virtually all of his medications. He is far healthier and happier than he was prior to surgery. After seeing the significant benefits in Jim, his Cardiologist now refers many of his patients to me. Jim is why bariatric surgery is performed.
As with any medical or surgical intervention, I am not advocating for surgery in all obese patients with cardiac risk factors. I am, however, advocating for weight loss surgery to be considered a serious option for those who qualify. There is much to gain.