Obesity is a serious disease – a disease in which the sufferer’s body weight becomes far in excess of a healthy norm. It is epidemic on Georgia. Almost 63% of the population of the Peach State is overweight or obese. And obesity costs, in both money and lives: those with obesity may experience other life-threatening illnesses (co-morbidities), such Type II diabetes, cancer, heart conditions, and high blood pressure. Annual medical expenditures attributable to obesity cost us Georgians approximately $2.1 billion per year.
Obesity is more than a problem in Georgia. It’s a public health crisis.
The Weight Wars
Healthy weight is calculated in terms of individual body mass index (BMI), which is a measure of body fat in adult men and women based on height and weight. Those with a BMI of at least 25 are considered overweight; those with a BMI of 30 or above are considered obese.
Gimmicks like fad diets, infomercial exercise programs, and so-called weight-loss pills are no solution. Some lose weight by these means, true, but most regain it later. Others lose no weight no matter what they do – and wreck their health in the process. But weight loss is not enough. Obesity is a disease. The excess weight is only a symptom. To cure the disease, we must change our relationship with food entirely.
The only mechanism for weight loss is cutting caloric intake. Some can reduce their food intake by willpower alone; others need a supervised medical diet program to put them of the right path. And for those for whom neither of these is a solution, another option exists: weight loss surgery.
The Surgical Option
Surgical weight loss – also known as bariatric surgery -- has been proven effective in treating obesity-related health problems for individuals with a BMI of 35 or higher with related co-morbidities. It can also help those who are obese but have no co-morbidities to reach their ideal weight and lessen their chances of developing health problems related to obesity in the future. Bariatric surgery is performed under general anesthesia, usually laparoscopically, and works by surgically altering the patient’s stomach and/or bowel to physically limit the amount of food the patient can eat. When the patient’s daily caloric intake drops below the number of calories their body needs to operate each day, the weight starts to come off. As with all forms of surgery, weight loss surgery presents the patient with a risk of major postoperative complications, including infection, anemia and other nutritional deficiencies, ulcers, and gallstones.
Considering Surgical Weight Loss
Weight loss surgery only makes sense as a treatment option when it combined with a healthy lifestyle. Weight loss surgery patients who fail to adopt healthier eating and activity habits, or who refuse to follow postoperative instructions from their surgeon, may regain any weight lost or suffer other negative health effects.
All surgical procedures expose the patient to some degree of risk, including the risk of serious complications. The outcome of any particular case cannot be known with certainty in advance. Patients should make any decision regarding surgery in consultation with their physician.
Many physicians believe that obesity is the most serious health threat facing the population of Georgia. But we can beat obesity – if we all pull together.
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