Being overweight can cause serious illness…we all know that. Many diseases can be reversed or avoided simply by losing weight. Our writings about disease may frighten you if you are seriously overweight. We do not want to scare you. But, it is important that you begin to take the actions necessary to avoid serious illness. If you have fear, it is there because you know you are at risk. Take action. It does not have to be weight loss surgery. But if diet and exercise don’t work, weight loss surgery is a viable option.
Diseases mentioned by the NIH
In certain instances, less severely obese patients (with BMI’s between 35 and 40) also may be considered for weight loss surgery. Included in this category are patients with high-risk comorbid conditions such as life-threatening cardiopulmonary problems (e.g., severe sleep apnea, Pickwickian syndrome, and obesity-related cardiomyopathy) or severe diabetes mellitus. Other possible indications for patients with BMI’s between 35 and 40 include obesity-induced physical problems interfering with lifestyle (e.g., joint disease treatable but for being overweight, or body size problems precluding or severely interfering with employment, family function, and ambulation).
Heart disease has long been associated with obesity
It’s not hard to figure out why. The diet of obese patients has all the ingredients to coat the arteries with plaque (artery-clogging plaque, not the kind you get on your teeth). Pumping against a hundred extra pounds will soon take a toll on the heart.
What is plaque? Plaque is atherosclerosis, or arteriosclerosis (fun with words again—it roughly translates to “hard porridge,” which is what these plaques are like—that skimmy stuff on top and that soft stuff in the middle). Plaque is a substance that coats the artery and narrows it. If the artery becomes narrowed enough then not enough blood can get to the tissues or an organ.
As the build up of atherosclerosis occurs in the arteries going to the heart muscle, less and less blood gets to that muscle: sometimes the muscle develops a specific pain, which we call “angina. ” If one of those patches of plaque blocks the artery completely, then the heart muscle will eventually die and you will have a heart attack (or, a “coronary” as some folks call it, because the coronary artery is blocked). If the heart muscle isn’t receiving enough blood to do its job, then the heart won’t work well and problems, such as congestive heart failure, will develop.
Some of the plaque buildup is due a high cholesterol level. A certain percent of blood cholesterol comes from what you eat. Doctors debate over which foods cause a rise in that cholesterol: some argue it is caused by eating too many carbohydrates, others that it is caused by a diet rich in fats. That issue will be debated for a long time. No matter which doctor’s theory you might believe, obese people have diets that contain plenty of foods that build plaque in the arteries. There is some good news. Some drugs greatly decrease cholesterol and lipids in the blood, but they are rather expensive. The best news is that research has shown if you lose a few pounds and decrease the amount that you eat (both of which happen with weight loss surgery), this buildup of plaque will reverse itself a bit. So, here is yet another reason to turn down that second plate.
Heart disease is the most common reason people die in the United States
…and it is clearly related to diet and obesity. Weight loss surgery allows a person to decrease the risk of heart disease from obesity, and if patients change their diet because of the procedure, they eliminate yet another risk factor of heart disease. Another way is to eat fish—the fat in fish actually protects you from heart disease a bit. Fish is a great source of protein, a good source of the types of fats that are protective, and if you get them fresh, they are downright tasty.