By: Dr. John Olsofka, University of Louisville Health, Mary & Elizabeth Hospital Bariatric Program, Lap-Band of Louisville
Poet Theodore Roethke once wrote, “In a dark time, the eye begins to see.”
For many Americans, the pandemic was a wake-up call to pay attention to our mental and physical health. And we’re listening—in a recent survey, 57% of Americans polled said their top priority this year was health and wellness.
As we near the end of this life-altering pandemic, many of us are ready to seize the moment and start living a healthier, happier life—full of vitality.
A goal within reach
Today, over 40% of adult Americans live with obesity—a disease that’s been tied to serious health risks.
We’ve known for some time that obesity raises the risk of potentially serious health issues, such as heart disease and strokes, Type 2 diabetes, and certain cancers. But we’re also discovering it can significantly increase the risk of severe COVID-19 complications.
The good news: obesity is treatable.
Some people can lose weight and keep it off without surgery, such as modifying their eating habits and lifestyle.
However, for most, weight regain is typical. In fact, research shows that more than half of the lost weight was regained within two years, and by five years, more than 80% of lost weight was regained.
A life-changing solution for better health
Fortunately, there’s a proven solution for severely obese patients who can’t lose weight through diet and exercise alone—or for patients with obesity-related health issues.
People choose this option for a range of reasons:
- Adjustable, adaptable, and safe: During this minimally invasive, reversible procedure, an adjustable band is placed around the upper stomach to help limit food intake and promote fullness. (The band can be adjusted as your needs change.) Unlike other types of bariatric surgery, this procedure doesn’t require any radical, permanent changes to your body, such as partial “amputation” of your stomach, re-routing of organs, or surgical stapling.
- Eating the healthy foods they love: Patients can continue to eat the healthy foods they love and reap the health benefits of natural digestion. By contrast, other bariatric surgeries permanently change your anatomy and can create vitamin and mineral deficiencies, which often require costly dietary supplements.
- Significant, consistent results: Patients with a lower BMI lose an average of 65% of their excess weight in the first year and 70% in the second year. Long-term, they kept off 60% of their excess body weight after 5 years.
- Safety: The Lap-Band has the lowest mortality rate and lowest rate of early postoperative complications among approved bariatric procedures.
- Renewed health: Weight loss from the Lap-Band has been proven to resolve or improve serious obesity-related health conditions, such as Type 2 diabetes, hypertension, and asthma. Bariatric surgery, in general, may improve cognitive function. What’s more, researchers found that bariatric surgery is significantly associated with a lower risk of hospital and intensive care unit admission for obese patients who have COVID-19.
- Affordability: The Lap-Band is covered by most health insurance.
Healthier lifestyle choices
In some cases, patients can prevent obesity by making healthier lifestyle choices, such as:
- Increasing exercise. Inactivity can be a major factor in weight gain and obesity. Adults should aim for 20-30 minutes of moderate exercise daily. (If you can’t go to the gym, try a hike, swim, or free online workout.)
- Adopting a healthier diet. Choose nutritious foods such as fruits, vegetables, whole grains, and lean protein. Avoid or limit high-fat, high-carbohydrate, high-calorie foods. (In addition to an eating and exercise plan, a doctor may prescribe medication for weight loss to prevent the absorption of fat or suppress appetite.)
- Practicing healthy eating habits. Identify patterns or triggers that may be preventing you from losing weight and replace them with healthier habits. For example, if you tend to eat more when anxious or depressed, you may benefit from counseling or an online support group.
- Getting enough sleep. Adults (and children) who don’t get enough sleep have a higher risk of obesity. In general, aim for 7 or more hours of sleep every night.
- Reducing stress. Stress has been linked to weight gain. To reduce stress, try a meditation or yoga app or reach out to a friend or therapist for support. And don’t forget the basics—sleep, exercise, and a healthy diet.
Obesity isn’t a moral failing. It’s a complex, yet treatable, disease. And physicians have an essential role to play in educating patients about their treatment options.
COVID-19 has laid bare the need to act on the obesity epidemic now. A healthier, happier future for millions of Americans waits.