We're in trouble, Kansas - heavy trouble. That's "heavy" as in obese. Obesity is the second leading cause of preventable death in the United States, and may lead to other life-threatening illnesses, like Type II Diabetes or heart disease. Yet, across our state the number of overweight and obese individuals is rapidly increasing. In the Sunflower State alone, more than 61% of adults are overweight or obese - and the cost to our taxpayers for dealing with obesity-related illnesses adds up to a staggering $195 million per year.
But what is obesity, exactly? Obesity is the condition of being significantly above a healthy weight, as determined by one's body mass index (BMI). A person with a BMI of at least 25 is considered overweight; and someone who has a BMI of 30 or above is considered obese.
Obesity in Kansas is more than just trouble. It is an epidemic - the most serious threat to public health currently extant. How can we stop it?
The Surgical Option
The fight against obesity can be a struggle. Many people attempt to lose weight by means of trendy diets, Spartan exercise programs, or special pills, shakes and powders. Some sufferers actually lose a lot weight this way, but the vast majority regain it quickly as soon as they discontinue their weight loss program - and many more do serious damage to their health in the process.
Another increasingly popular option is weight loss surgery. Numerous studies have shown that bariatric surgery is an effective means of minimizing or resolving obesity-related health problems for individuals who are severely or morbidly obese. It can also help people who struggle with their weight but have no co-morbidities achieve a healthy BMI and reduce the likelihood that they will develop weight-related health problems in the future.
About Weight Loss Surgery
There is no royal road to instant weight loss. The only way to lose excess weight is to reduce the body's caloric intake below its daily caloric needs. When this happens, the body begins to draw upon stored energy (fat) to keep functioning. Weight loss surgery is a minimally invasive medical procedure intended to counter a patient's obesity by limiting the amount of food - and thus calories - that he or she can consume.
Bariatric procedures are performed under general anesthesia, and most (though not all) are performed laparoscopically. The three main types of weight loss surgery are: malabsorptive (during which the patient's intestinal tract is altered), restrictive (during which the surgeon creates a smaller stomach pouch that limits the amount of food needed for the patient to feel full), and combination (during which the surgeon creates a small stomach pouch and alters the patient's intestinal tract). Each procedure entails different risks and benefits.
Considering Surgical Weight Loss
Weight loss surgery can be a true lifesaver, if the patient is willing to adopt comprehensive changes in diet and lifestyle along with the surgery as part of a total health-improvement plan. Patients who fail to follow postoperative instructions or who refuse to alter their unhealthy lifestyles will almost certainly regain weight lost over time.
Although it is an effective weapon in Kansas' arsenal against obesity, weight loss surgery is no magic bullet. Those considering bariatric surgery as an option for the management of obesity should research their options and discuss with their physician the risks and possible outcomes of these procedures before making any decision.