Weight-loss Surgery Saves Lives

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Gastric Bypass surgery helps some patients do more than just shed the pounds.

"I see people's entire personality change. They lose the weight and their medical issues start resolving, they feel better, they're more active, and they're just blossoming and coming out of their shell. It opens a whole new life," Cindy O'Brien, program coordinator for the St. Joseph Surgical Weight Loss Center said.

In her role at the weight-loss center, O'Brien has seen many patient's lives drastically change through weight-loss surgery, even her own.

"In my particular case, it has actually saved my life," O'Brien said. "I had high blood pressure that was extremely high and it was one of those things that snuck up on me."

O'Brien says since her surgery, her blood pressure has gone down and her health has improved. O'Brien is not alone. A study published in the New England Journal of Medicine finds the surgery can actually save lives.

"The benefit of surgery is that unfortunately when a person becomes 100 pounds or more overweight, the likelihood of them losing that weight with diet and exercise is very small, only five percent of people can lose the weight," Surgeon Dr. John Mason said. "The only thing proven to be effective is weight loss surgery."

Some of the health risks linked to obesity include: heart disease, high blood pressure, diabetes, sleep apnea and even different types of cancer. However, after surgery many patients say those health problems disappear.

"I had reflux so bad that I would have to sleep on three or four pillows at night. Now, I just go to sleep," said Barbara Boston, office manager at the weight-loss center and gastric bypass patient. "The arthritis in my knees is cured, my high blood pressure is gone. So the money I used for medicine and food, I now use to go shopping."

Since her surgery, Boston has lost 115 pounds, and dropped from a size 22 to a 12.
But despite the quick results gastric bypass provides, doctors say patients still have to work to stay healthy.

"Exercise is very important because the body can use muscle mass as an energy source much faster than fat," Mason said. "If one is not using their muscles, the body will use them for energy and they'll become more weak."

However, after shedding the pounds, patients say their energy level is up and working out is a lot easier.

Doctors say there is less than a five percent chance patients will have complications from gastric bypass. The risk of mortality is less than one percent and the most common complication is blood clots.