Bariatric Surgery Cuts Heart Risks More than Drugs

An analysis using data from nearly 20,000 people found that bariatric surgery procedures, such as Lap-Band, gastric bypass, and gastric sleeve, reduce heart risks more dramatically than drugs. For more than half of the patients included in the research, risk factors for heart attack, heart failure and stroke — such as high blood pressure, diabetes and high cholesterol — significantly improved or were resolved following surgery.

The review looked at 73 bariatric surgery and cardiovascular risk-factor studies. Before their procedures, about 24 percent of the patients had diabetes, 44 percent had hypertension, and 44 percent had high cholesterol. By 5 years after surgery, 73 percent of patients saw their diabetes improve, 63 percent saw their hypertension improve and 65 percent had lower cholesterol. A review of 18 more studies, which included about 700 more patients, found that those who underwent bariatric surgery had a significant decline in left ventricular mass, or thickness of the heart muscle, which is considered to be a risk factor for heart failure. The study authors said in the paper, published in the U.K. journal Heart,  that the “magnitude of effect on risk factors is impressive, and to date no pharmacological therapy for weight management or diabetes has shown a comparable effect over these short time periods.” They concluded that in appropriately selected patients, especially those with a high cardiovascular risk, weight loss surgery could be life-saving.

More than one-third of the U.S. adult population is obese, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). Surgical weight loss procedures reduce appetite and help limit the amount of food that a person can consume. Some operations also reduce digestion and absorption of calories (and nutrients) from a meal. Surgery is usually reserved for people who are severely obese, meaning they have a body mass index (BMI) of 40 or greater. Patients may be a candidate for surgery at a lower BMI if they have an obesity-related medical condition, such as diabetes, coronary heart disease or sleep apnea.

We spoke with expert bariatric surgeon Dr. Daniel Cottam about the findings.  He said, “This is an impressive study that outlines the benefits that accrue with surgical weight loss and its effects on heart disease.  These findings are so significant that all obese patients with any heart disease risk factors should consider weight loss surgery before they consider a lifetime of less effective medication.”

Related Reading: Fewer Heart Attacks after Weight Loss Surgery

Comments are closed.