December 4, 2020
Clinical Contributors to this Story
Alexander Abkin, M.D. contributes to topics such as Surgery.
If you’re unhappy with your weight because it’s causing health problems or keeping you from living your life fully, you may wonder if weight-loss surgery could be an option for you. Weight-loss surgery – which is also known as bariatric surgery – is not for everyone, but it may be an effective way to help you lose weight if you’re committed to making the necessary lifestyle changes.
We asked Alexander Abkin, MD, FACS, FASMBS, director of JFK For Life, the bariatric surgery program at JFK University Medical Center, common questions regarding weight-loss surgery and when you should consider it.
Q: How overweight do I have to be to consider surgery?
More than 70 percent of Americans are either overweight or obese, but weight-loss surgery is only an option for people who are morbidly obese.
Doctors look at body mass index (BMI) to determine if you are overweight or obese. BMI is a calculation that compares height and weight to see if you’re a healthy weight for your height. (You can calculate your BMI here.) People with a BMI between 25 and 29.9 are considered overweight, and those with a BMI of 30 or higher are considered obese.
Q: Who is a candidate for weight-loss surgery?
A: Weight-loss surgery isn’t an option for everyone. The surgery is generally only offered to those who haven’t been able to lose weight through diet and exercise, who are healthy enough to undergo surgery and who are committed to improving their overall health. Other criteria for surgery may be defined by your personal health care provider.
You may be a candidate for weight-loss surgery if:
- you are more than 100 pounds overweight
- your BMI is greater than or equal to 40
- your BMI is greater than or equal to 35 and you have a weight-related health problem, such as type 2 diabetes, high blood pressure or severe sleep apnea
- you’ve been unable to lose weight through diet and exercise
- you’ve lost weight through diet and exercise but regained the weight back
Q: What are other considerations for a successful weight-loss surgery?
A: Weight-loss surgery alters the size your stomach and may change the configuration of your digestive system, which limits the amount of food that you can eat and the way that your body absorbs nutrients from food. Surgery also changes the hunger hormones in your body and can reduce them up to 70%. This change can help make the weight loss journey easier compared to traditional diet and exercise regimens, which can cause your hunger levels to increase making it easier to fall off track.
In order for weight-loss surgery to be successful, you’ll need to change certain lifestyle habits, including the and exercise. You’ll also need to be committed to weight loss and better health for the long term. If you do, you can see immediate results after surgery, so you’ll need to make consistent efforts to reach your weight-loss goals. It may help if you consider the reasons why you want to undergo surgery: For example, losing weight may mean that you can walk up a flight of stairs without feeling winded or play more interactively with your kids or grandkids.
Your doctor will want to be sure that you’re in the right frame of mind to undergo weight-loss surgery. It may be right for you if:
- you are emotionally prepared to begin a gradual weight-loss journey after surgery
- you are prepared to follow your doctor’s advice about making dietary changes
- you are committed to exercising on a regular basis
- you agree to take a daily multivitamin for the rest of your life, since you’ll absorb fewer nutrients from food
- you don’t smoke or are willing to quit smoking at least 4 weeks before surgery
If you are morbidly obese, haven’t had luck losing weight and keeping it off on your own and are committed to making long-term changes that will benefit your health and lead to weight loss, ask your doctor if weight-loss surgery is right for you.
Next Steps & Resources:
- Meet our source: Alexander Abkin, MD, FACS, FASMBS
- To make an appointment with Dr. Abkin, or a doctor near you, call 800-822-8905 or visit our website.
- Do These 8 Things Daily to Keep Your Heart Healthy as You Age
The material provided through HealthU is intended to be used as general information only and should not replace the advice of your physician. Always consult your physician for individual care.