The truth is that for some people, having the surgery and changing the way they eat and exercising regularly can bring major health benefits. If you are thinking about weight loss surgery, you will want to know the facts—and myths—about this approach to shedding pounds.
Myth: Anyone who wants to lose weight can have the surgery.
Doctors, hospitals, and surgery centers have rules about who is eligible for the surgery. It is generally approved for:
- Adults with a body mass index (BMI) greater than 40 who have not responded to diet, exercise, or medications for weight loss.
- Adults with a BMI greater than 35 who have a serious obesity-related health issue, such as diabetes, coronary artery disease, or severe sleep apnea, especially if the health issue isn’t improving with lifestyle changes and medicines.
- Adults with a BMI greater than 30 who have specific conditions such as diabetes and prediabetes or a combination of diseases such as high blood pressure, sleep apnea, high cholesterol, and diabetes (also called “metabolic syndrome”).
Fact: Surgeons also consider a person’s attitude and commitment and other health issues.
In addition to being at a specific BMI, surgery candidates must be committed to long-term follow-up care and be motivated to maintain healthy habits after surgery. Also, people can’t have any physical or mental health problems that would make surgery too risky.
Fact: Weight loss surgery can improve and sometimes even resolve type 2 diabetes.
Diabetes goes away in some people who have the surgery. For others, the surgery improves blood sugar control, prevents prediabetes from getting worse, or eliminates or reduces the need for medication.
Fact: Weight loss surgery can improve some health conditions and may help you live longer.
For some people, surgery reduces the risk of developing heart disease, cancer, and certain infections. It can improve health problems related to obesity (high blood pressure, high cholesterol, sleep apnea) to the point that people need less or no medicine. After having the surgery, many people spend less money on medications and have fewer sick days.
Myth: Most people lose about 100 pounds after the surgery.
The amount of weight loss varies by individual and depends on the type of surgery. You may expect to lose 50% or more of your excess weight, but it also depends on how well you follow a diet and how much you exercise after surgery.
Fact: Weight loss surgery has some possible health risks that range from mild to serious.
The surgery is generally safe, but some people have complications, which range from mild to serious. Risks during or soon after surgery include stomach pain, nausea and vomiting, injury to organs, surgical wound infection, bleeding in the belly, reactions to anesthesia, or blood clots that could travel to the lung or heart, which could be life-threatening. Long-term possible risks include bowel obstruction, stomach ulcers, vomiting, vitamin and mineral deficiencies, osteoporosis, and, rarely, severely low blood sugar. After the surgery, some people develop gallstones that require surgery.
Myth: You can continue your regular eating habits after having the surgery.
If you consume high-calorie drinks and snacks and don’t exercise, you will lose less weight or regain the weight you lost after surgery. Having the surgery doesn’t guarantee you will lose a lot of weight and keep it off. You need to do your part by eating small nutritious meals, avoiding unhealthy snacks, and exercising regularly.
Fact: For some people, life is better after the surgery, and others have unexpected challenges.
Some people have better quality of life after the surgery because they notice health benefits and feel better about their bodies. But that is not a guarantee. You still have to do the hard work of dieting and exercising. Some people get sad because they find that life after surgery isn’t what they expected. Surgery doesn’t make bad habits, feelings, attitudes, or worries automatically go away. Also, after you lose the weight, relationships may not be any different.
Want to know more? Ask your doctor about whether you are a candidate for weight loss surgery. If you are considering it, check with your health plan about what is covered and what costs you would need to cover.
These articles are not a substitute for medical advice, and are not intended to treat or cure any disease. Advances in medicine may cause this information to become outdated, invalid, or subject to debate. Professional opinions and interpretations of scientific literature may vary. Consult your healthcare professional before making changes to your diet, exercise, or medication regimen.
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Bariatric Surgery for Type 2 Diabetes Reversal : The Risks, American Diabetes Association:
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Life after Weight Loss Surgery, Medline Plus:
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Patient Information: Weight Loss Surgery (Beyond the Basics). UpToDate®:
Weight-Loss Surgery for Adults With Diabetes or Prediabetes Who Are at the Lower Levels of Obesity, Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality: