Obesity: More Than What You See in the Mirror
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reported that the US obesity prevalence was 41.9% from 2017 – March 2020.
In addition to keeping the body in a chronic state of inflammation, there are 65 different ailments connected to obesity ranging from Type II diabetes and high blood pressure (hypertension) to cardiovascular disease, obstructive sleep apnea, and many other health issues. Those ailments can improve—or disappear completely—following bariatric weight loss surgery.
Dr. Nestor de la Cruz-Muñoz, chief of laparoendoscopic and bariatric surgery and medical director for bariatric surgery at the University of Miami Hospital, is an internationally renowned leader in the field of metabolic weight loss surgery. Along with his team at the University of Miami Health System, he has successfully performed more than 6,000 surgical weight loss procedures, including helping patients who suffer from multiple persistent or recurring conditions.
“Obesity impacts all organ systems from the head down to the toes,” Dr. De la Cruz-Muñoz says. “There have been discussions that obesity causes, or worsens, about 65 medical ailments which include things you’ve probably never heard about, such as intracranial hypertension. This is a condition where people develop headaches and experience visual changes due to increased pressure in the brain. A lot of that is directly related to obesity, but it can get better when a conscious effort is made to lose weight.”
Another ailment mentioned by the specialist is gout. “The uric acid load in patients who are obese is much higher than normal,” he says. “Obese patients tend to get gout at a much higher rate than people who are thinner.”
About 30 percent of Dr. De la Cruz-Muñoz’s bariatric patients have diabetes.
Remarkably, 30 to 40 percent of Type II diabetes goes away after weight loss surgery.
“About 25 to 30 percent of our patients take medications for high blood pressure,” commented Dr. De la Cruz-Muñoz. “It’s a very common medical issue, and it’s also weight related. Once patients lose their excessive weight, between 60 to 70 percent of them can safely stop taking medications.”
Cholesterol levels are an additional vital point of concern.
Obese patients with high cholesterol levels are prime candidates for heart disease. There are two types, often referred to as “good” (HDL) and “bad” (LDL). Increased LDL cholesterol levels harm the inner walls of the body’s arteries—the lifeblood of the heart and brain. After surgery, “we see a normalization of cholesterol in 80 to 90 percent of patients,” Dr. De la Cruz-Muñoz said. “It can help heart disease from progressing, and may even help it regress. Heart and kidney functions also seem to improve after weight loss surgery.”
Kidney failure is another byproduct of obesity—and weight loss surgery can help. A few patients who required dialysis have been taken off organ transplant lists thanks to bariatric surgery. According to Dr. De la Cruz-Muñoz, the correlation between obesity and cancer also decreases. “The relation between obesity and cancer is significant,” he said; there are 12 different cancers that are more prevalent and frequent in patients who are obese. “Breast cancer has a much higher frequency for women who are excessively overweight,” he said. “If an obese woman gets breast cancer, she has a higher chance of dying from the disease than someone who is thin.”
Bariatric surgery is beneficial to women who have undergone breast cancer surgery.
Studies show that chances of the disease returning, post-operatively, are greatly diminished. It also decreases the chances of death from the cancer, often by as much as 30 percent.
“Colon, prostate, esophageal, and stomach cancers are related to hormonal changes that take place in obese patients,” said Dr. De la Cruz-Muñoz. “The metabolic stimulus for those erratic hormonal changes is reduced by weight loss surgery, and so are the chances of getting cancer.”
In addition to the physical health benefits of weight loss, there is also the mental aspect to consider. “Once weight gain has been eliminated, a person feels totally different; their mental state is enhanced and self-confidence and self-esteem are restored,” said Dr. De la Cruz-Muñoz.
Bariatric surgery has moved far beyond treatment for weight loss; it’s a metabolic procedure that makes people happy and healthy—and that’s our goal. Patients start to feel better and become more energetic. They sleep better and, in turn, become better employees, better spouses, and better parents because they’re more active.
The daily grind of aches and pains on the knees, lower back, and hips dissipates as weight is lost, and suddenly new doors open for patients thanks to bariatric surgery. “That is our end game—to make our patients healthy, and that is a goal we always strive to achieve,” summarized Dr. De la Cruz-Muñoz. “I remember a woman telling me after her weight loss surgery, ‘for the first time in my adult life, men are opening doors for me. I’ve been offered jobs I would never have been offered before.’”
To learn more, visit https://uhealthmedicalweightloss.com.