Most of us are keenly aware that dieting can be a constant yo-yo. In our quest to maintain a healthy weight we’re often motivated to try just about any diet that’s been shown to have at least a modicum of success. 

Now take it a step further, when weight becomes such an issue that our health is at stake, and no amount of dieting is helping. That’s when surgery may be an option. 

Obesity takes more lives than breast cancer and colon cancer combined,” says surgeon Ramy Awad who heads up the Bariatric Surgery Center of Excellence at Desert Regional Medical Center, “so by doing nothing you’re at higher risk. 

For patients considered morbidly obese, there’s bariatric surgery. Not meant to be cosmetic, its aim is to help resolve weight-related medical issues and improve quality – and length – of life. The surgery is all done robotically, with pinpoint precision, the doctor explains, so precise it can even peel a grape and stitch it up perfectly. 

The most common surgical procedure is the vertical sleeve gasterectomy in which 80 percent of the stomach and the hunger hormone are removed. What’s left post surgery is a much smaller banana shaped section. 

Finally, there’s gastric bypass, where the stomach is made into the size of a small egg. Intestines are also re-routed. As drastic as all this may sound,
Dr. Awad says these procedures are safe and help with overall health by providing metabolic benefits such as improvement in diabetes. We see excellent diabetic control with these surgeries, he says, adding that high blood pressure and cholesterol numbers can also improve. 

However, these procedures are not a magic pill; patients must do their part, the doctor says, by implementing healthy eating strategies, and beginning a regimented physical activity program. And they can’t fall back to those behaviors that got them into trouble in the first place. 

Seventy-five pounds heavier at the time, Barbara Anglin underwent surgery five years ago. She was finding it hard to exercise, and even difficult to perform her daily activities. She was also pre-diabetic and dealing with other health issues. I felt like surgery was my last chance. Post-surgery she says, everything changed. No diabetes, no high blood pressure, no high cholesterol. And she makes it a point to say that she’s committed to a lifestyle change for the rest of her life. 

To help patients stay the course, there’s a comprehensive aftercare program including a dietician, a psychologist, support groups, seminars and activities that Dr. Awad maintains, which keeps patients engaged and accountable. 

Janet Zappala is an Emmy award winning anchor and reporter, and creator and host of Your Health Matters. For more information on surgical weight loss options, contact the Center for Weight Management at Desert Regional Medical Center (855) 631.7284.

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