Is Weight Loss Surgery for You?
Katherine Cork's picture
By Katherine Cork on April 18, 2017

If you are significantly overweight and have tried to lose weight many times without success, you might have thought about weight loss surgery. But how do you know if it’s the right choice for you?
 
There are a few different kinds of weight loss (bariatric) surgeries available, which work by either limiting how much food your stomach can hold (restrictive surgeries), or stopping your body from absorbing some of the calories from your food (malabsorptive surgeries).
 
But not everyone is going to be a candidate for weight loss surgery.
 
“Every patient is an individual, and each of their stories is different,” said Arnold Salzberg, M.D., director of Metabolic and Bariatric Surgery at Carilion Clinic, a Bariatric Center of Excellence. “Generally, you have to be significantly overweight as determined by your body mass index (BMI), which is a measure of your body surface area, to qualify for surgery.”
 
The guidelines for BMI and weight loss surgery are federal, and all bariatric surgeons across the country abide by them. To qualify for surgery, your BMI must be 35 if you have an additional major health condition or 40 if there are no other conditions.
 
“Weight gain comes with comorbidities, or additional problems, which can be deadly and at the least bring dysfunction to a person’s life,” explained Dr. Salzberg.
 
There is significant data that these major health conditions–like diabetes, high blood pressure, sleep apnea, joint pain and high cholesterol–can be reversed when you lose weight.
 
“Obesity can take years off of your life; we’re talking 10 to 15 years, not just one or two,” said Dr. Salzberg. “It is the second most prevalent cause of preventable death, but unlike many other medical problems, it can be reversed.”
 
Weight loss surgery has been shown to improve overall quality of life by 95 percent. But it is important to remember that weight loss surgery is a tool for weight loss and not a quick fix or a magic solution. You will still have to change your lifestyle of diet and exercise in order to be successful.
 
“Surgery provides the longest-lasting weight loss over a lifetime, plus consistent reversal of comorbid conditions,” said Dr. Salzberg. “It is the beginning of a journey and patients have to learn new habits for their life.”
 
If you’re not sure if weight loss surgery is the answer for you, your primary care physician can suggest a bariatric specialist to talk to you about options and requirements.
 
For more information about obesity and weight loss surgery:
 
National Institutes of Health (NIH): Obesity
 
Centers for Disease Control (CDC): Obesity and Overweight Topics
 
American Society for Metabolic and Bariatric Surgery