Se­niors face obe­sity bat­tle: Bariatric surgery can help

Record Observer - - Senior Satellite - By DR. COURT­NEY DOYLE

Ag­ing comes with cer­tain ad­van­tages. As we reach re­tire­ment, life slows down a lit­tle. We have more time to spend with our spouses, our chil­dren and our grand­chil­dren. We have the time and funds to take that va­ca­tion we never got around to, fin­ish our “to do” lists or pick up that new hobby we al­ways wanted to tr y.

But ag­ing also comes with cer­tain dis­ad­van­tages, most no­tably when it comes to our health. Our joints ache a lit­tle more than they used to. Our di­a­betes re­quires more and more in­sulin shots to con­trol. Our hearts start to warn us about those years when we didn’t eat ex­actly as we should or ex­er­cise as much as we might have. Obe­sity can make these prob­lems sig­nif­i­cantly worse for se­niors.

Obe­sity is a grow­ing epi­demic in the United States in all age groups, and se­niors are no dif­fer­ent. In fact, the strug­gle to con­trol weight can be harder for se­niors as their me­tab­o­lism slows down and their ac­tiv­ity is lim­ited by the in­evitable ef­fects of ag­ing. Be­fore many se­niors re­al­ize it, they find them­selves on hand­fuls of pills a day to con­trol their blood pres­sure, choles­terol, di­a­betes, heart­burn and gen­eral dis­com­fort.

Many over­weight se­niors ex­pe­ri­ence frus­tra­tion and hope­less­ness with their weight and as­so­ci­ated med­i­cal con­di­tions. They feel there is no way to stop this slip­pery slope of health is­sues. But there are op­tions avail­able to help pa­tients over 65 con­trol their weight, and one of the best tools is bariatric surgery. Bariatric, or weight loss, surgery de­creases the size of the stom­ach and changes the body’s hor­monal bal­ance to curb ap­petite, teach ap­pro­pri­ate por­tion con­trol and help pa­tients man­age their weight.

Stud­ies show that obese se­niors who un­dergo bariatric surgery can ex­pe­ri­ence just as much weight loss as younger pa­tients. Also, se­niors do not suf­fer from any sig­nif­i­cant in­creases in com­pli­ca­tions from the surgery, mean­ing that it is safe even in an older pop­u­la­tion. Al­though many older pa­tients have been told that they can­not qual­ify for this life sav­ing op­er­a­tion be­cause of their age, the truth is there is no age limit for bariatric surgery. Any pa­tient who is healthy enough to un­dergo the op­er­a­tion is a can­di­date.

Bariatric surgery can help pa­tients lose more than half of their ex­cess weight. This gen­er­ally leads to a cure or re­mis­sion of many med­i­cal con­di­tions, or a sig­nif­i­cant re­duc­tion in med­i­ca­tions. Be­cause of the ob­vi­ous health ben­e­fits, many in­sur­ance com­pa­nies, in­clud­ing Medi­care, pay for the op­er­a­tion.

Main­tain­ing a healthy weight and cur­ing weight-re­lated health con­di­tions could help you live years longer than you might oth­er­wise. You can take that va­ca­tion. You can try that new hobby. You can run af­ter your grand­chil­dren with more en­ergy and less pain. You can have a new lease on life af­ter re­tire­ment.

AAMC Weight Loss and Meta­bolic Surgery is here to help. Free weight loss surger y sem­i­nars are held in Eas­ton and Annapolis. To learn more about what you can gain with weight loss surgery, visit askAAMC.org/ReadyToGain.

Court­ney Doyle, MD, is bariatric sur­geon with Anne Arun­del Med­i­cal Cen­ter Weight Loss and Meta­bolic Surgery.

DR. COURT­NEY DOYLE

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