Obesity. It’s a word that evokes visions of frustration and failure. It brings to mind fad diets, long hours at the gym, expanding waist lines and roller coaster weights.
Katherine Meister MD, a bariatric surgeon with TriHealth Weight Management points out that obesity is more than a number or weight displayed on a scale. It’s more than frustration over fitting comfortably into your clothes or into an airplane seat. Obesity is a chronic disease and can be a contributing factor to other chronic conditions such as high blood pressure, sleep apnea, high cholesterol, diabetes, heart disease and more.
“Obesity shortens lives,” Dr. Meister says. “Having a body mass index (BMI) of 40 cuts seven years off of life expectancy. That jumps to 14 years with a BMI of 55.”
Quality of life and life expectancy are directly impacted by obesity. That is why Dr. Meister urges patients who are obese to consider surgical or physician-managed non-surgical weight loss options such as those offered by TriHealth Weight Management.
“We know that a patient that is more than 100 pounds overweight has less than a 1 percent chance of losing and maintaining that weight loss without surgery,” she says. “People have misconceptions about surgery. They think it’s the easy way or that it’s because they have failed that led them to surgery. That’s not at all what the reality is. Surgery is a tool.”
Early Health Benefits of Weight Loss Surgery
The good news, according to Dr. Meister, is that many patients see immediate improvements with chronic conditions associated with obesity.
“A lot of patients think diabetes gets better just because you lose weight,” Dr. Meister explains. “We have patients that come in on substantial amounts of insulin that are completely off of it a week after surgery. The surgery affects neuro-hormonal feedback mechanisms which can immediately affect blood sugar.”
Other positive health results cited by Dr. Meister include patients with sleep apnea who are able to sleep without a CPAP machine or patients who are able to quit taking medications for high blood pressure or cholesterol levels.
Defining Success in Treating Obesity
Dr. Meister says that while many studies define success in treating obesity as losing at least 50 percent of the excess weight, the primary goal of weight loss surgery is getting patients to a healthier, happier lifestyle.
“It’s not always about getting into a ‘size something.’ Success is really driven by the patient and what their goal is,” Dr. Meister says. “For some, that is a number. For other patients, it’s wanting to be off their medication or CPAP machine. Sometimes the goal is related to their lifestyle. They get tired when they go to the grocery store and they don’t want that anymore. They want to move again. We want to help them obtain these goals.”
Taking the First Step
Patients with a BMI of 40 or higher are eligible for bariatric surgery by most insurance standards. That number lowers to 35 when combined with other associated comorbidities – chronic conditions that exist simultaneously in a patient. But as Dr. Meister points out, not everybody knows their BMI. She suggests talking to your primary care physician if you have concerns about your weight, ask what your BMI is and about your options. You can also call TriHealth Weight Management for a consultation at 513 862 4957.
“That’s really the first step – coming in and having that conversation,” she says. “And just like with any other chronic disease, the earlier you have that conversation and begin treatment, the better.”