Obesity plagues America and in particular the African American community. The Office of Minority Health reports that 4 out of 5 African American women are overweight or obese. Obesity is not only associated with one’s self image and mental health, but also physical health as it is associated with higher rates of high blood pressure, high cholesterol, and diabetes.
With so many people afflicted with obesity it comes as no surprise that diet and weight management is a very lucrative business. Many people are unsuccessful despite their efforts. It is no fault of their own as weight loss is very difficult to achieve and maintain.
Bariatric surgery is an option for some people. There are currently 4 different types of bariatric surgeries, including gastric bypass (one of the most common) and the lapband, both offered in the United States. You and your surgeon determine which is best. The National Institutes of Health has strict guidelines for who qualifies for the surgery. The person must have a Body Mass Index (BMI) greater than 40 or have a BMI greater than 35 along with another disease which is due to the individual being overweight such as high blood pressure or diabetes. The person must also be an adequate candidate for the surgery.
PREPARING FOR BARIATRIC SURGERY
Preparing for bariatric surgery is not an easy task. The most reputable surgeons are affiliated with weight loss centers comprised of doctors, nurses, psychologists and dieticians. They will work to help you identify why you are obese and lifestyle changes that can be made both before and after surgery. They will also follow you after the surgery to monitor your progress and continue to give you support. The best centers, in my opinion, will address your physical and mental needs and not just focus on the surgery.
RECOVERING FROM BARIATRIC SURGERY
Recovering from the surgery is also very demanding. Most surgeries are now done laparoscopically, thus a smaller incision in your abdomen. However, you are at risk for many post-operative complications including infection and blood clots. You will also be in the hospital for several days and not able to eat for the first few days. Once you start eating, you may have increased diarrhea and other gastrointestinal side effects. You will also most likely require lifelong vitamins supplementation in the form of both pills and injections.
After spending all of this time meeting with those in the bariatric center prior to the surgery then healing from the surgery, you hope that the procedure is a success. However, up to 10% of patients are unable to maintain their weight loss.
If you are interested in bariatric surgery, I suggest you start by talking with your primary care provider. Your provider will be able to recommend reputable surgeons in your area who take your insurance. Be careful about reading the Internet as websites may not come from reputable sources. When you meet with the surgeon, ask if there is support from nurses and dieticians both before and after the surgery. Ask the surgeon how many procedures they have done, their rate of post-operative complications, and the success rate of their patients. Don’t get excited if they show you one before and after picture; anyone can lose weight short term, you want to know who kept it off. And finally, ask if the surgeon will help you navigate applying for insurance. The procedure cost $20,000 and you want to make sure it is covered.
Bariatric surgery has lead to many people losing weight and improving their health. However, it is not an easy or cheap method of weight loss. You must be committed to maintaining a healthy lifestyle after the procedure for it to be success.
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