The prevalence of weight problems has been growing exponentially over the past two decades. These days, scientists estimate that more than 64 percent of Americans are overweight. Further statistics indicate that out of this percentage, roughly half of overweight Americans are also obese. What's worse is that this epidemic has been linked to the country's steadily rising rates of weight-related diseases. Heart disease, diabetes, high blood pressure, excessive cholesterol and even cancer are now the most common chronic health problems in the United States.
Due to this widespread problem, the popularity of weight loss products and diet programs has risen dramatically. Unfortunately, many people who try these avenues of weight loss fail, either because the methods themselves were flawed, or because the dieters found them too difficult or unpleasant to continue with. In fact, statistics indicate that most people who try conventional weight loss methods don't typically lose weight and may actually gain some instead!
The tendency of fad diets and exercise regimens to fail on their own has lead to another way to lose weight, and one that is increasing in popularity: bariatric surgery. There are numerous variations of this surgery, but they all work by significantly reducing the amount of space in the stomach. This helps the patient to exert better control over their caloric consumption by making it difficult to over-eat. However, before going for weight loss surgery, there are some very important things to consider.
Like all surgeries, weight loss surgery carries certain risks and should not be done frivolously. Most of the facilities that provide these surgeries require that you meet certain criteria beforehand. In general, you must be between the ages of 18 and 64 and be extremely overweight. Having a life-threatening health problem due to your weight will further qualify you. Many facilities also require that you've been overweight for at least five years and have no history of drug or alcohol abuse. In certain cases where teens are in mortal danger because of their weight, they may also be considered for the surgery.
Bariatric surgery is considered major surgery and comes with a risk of complications. Although these are uncommon, they can pose a serious threat to your health and life. They include:
- Dumping syndrome, wherein the food you consume passes almost immediately into your intestines
- Infection at the incision location
- Peritonitis, wherein the stomach contents leak into other areas of the body
- Stenosis, or a narrowing of the connection between your stomach and bowel
- Blood clots that could lead to a pulmonary embolism
- Loose or missing staples
For a bariatric patient, taking proper care of yourself following the surgery is of the utmost importance for preventing trouble. Your surgeon will likely prescribe you a very specific diet and recommend that you stick to it for at least a few weeks. Furthermore, you will also be told to avoid heavy lifting, drinking alcohol, smoking, straining or over-eating, as these things can slow healing or cause injury. It's also important that you get plenty of rest, keep any dressings changed and stay properly hydrated.
Some patients may later experience problems associated with their surgery. Besides intestinal ulcers and obstructions, patients may also suffer from a lack of key nutrients. Nutritional deficiencies are the most common complication by far and occur in about 40 percent of patients. Because successful healing and weight loss rely on a good nutrient supply, it may be necessary for you to take a multivitamin. If left untreated, nutrient deficiencies are known to cause severe depression in people who have had bariatric surgery.