Frank was obese and had trouble controlling his type 2 diabetes. His wife and children constantly worried about him. Frank tried hard to lose weight. He swapped salads for French fries. Evening walks around the block replaced nightly TV watching. He was taking medication as his doctor prescribed. But the scale didn't budge much, and his blood sugar levels weren't in check.
That was last year. Frank has since had weight loss surgery, also called bariatric surgery or gastric bypass surgery. Today his diabetes is under control and he's literally a shadow of his former self.
What is weight loss surgery?
If you are obese and have diabetes, weight loss surgery may help you. The surgery is an option for some people who are obese and have not had weight loss success through diet and exercise. Surgery can:
- Reduce the amount of food your stomach holds.
- Reroute part of your digestive system. Food bypasses the part of the small intestine (duodenum) where most calories are absorbed.
People who have this surgery often lose a great amount of weight. This weight loss may be maintained over time. Weight stays off because people either can't eat as much as they used to, or their body can't absorb all the calories from foods. There are several different types of weight loss surgery. The most common are:
- Gastric bypass
- Laparoscopic adjustable gastric banding
- Bilio-pancreatic diversion with duodenal switch
You may be eligible for weight loss surgery if you have a body mass index (BMI) of 40 or more. People with an existing obesity-related condition - such as type 2 diabetes, heart disease or sleep apnea - may also be a candidate if they have a BMI of 35 or more. To find out your BMI.
Can weight loss surgery cure diabetes?
The link between type 2 diabetes and obesity is well documented. Many people with type 2 diabetes are overweight. Excess weight makes it hard for the body to regulate blood sugar levels. The more severe your obesity (or higher your BMI), the greater your risk for diabetes-related complications.
Weight loss surgery cures diabetes in four out of five people who have the procedure. Even if the surgery doesn't completely cure your diabetes, your blood sugar levels may greatly improve with the weight loss.
How does the surgery help diabetes?
Weight loss surgery may treat diabetes in two ways:
- Blood sugar levels return to healthy levels as a result of weight loss.
- Some experts believe that the surgery causes a hormonal change that may help cure the diabetes. They think this because diabetes frequently improves even just a few days after surgery, long before weight loss begins.
Weight loss surgery can also improve more than just blood sugar levels. It often helps lower blood pressure and cholesterol levels, two risk factors for heart disease. People often say they have a better quality of life after surgery, too.
Weight loss surgery is not a quick fix. You must change your lifestyle and eating habits for life if you have the procedure. You must also have routine checkups. It is a major surgery and comes with risks. Talk to your doctor to determine whether the benefits of this surgery outweigh the risks.
Other options to help manage diabetes
Weight loss surgery is not for everyone. Maybe the risks are too great or perhaps you don't qualify for the procedure. There are other ways to treat your diabetes. Follow these tips:
- Exercise regularly. Aim for 30 minutes of physical activity most days of the week. Check with your doctor before you start any exercise program.
- Eat right. Eat plenty of fruits, vegetables, whole grains, lean meats and nonfat dairy. Limit foods high in fat, cholesterol and sodium.
- Take your insulin and diabetes medication atorvastatin as prescribed.
- See your doctor regularly. Your doctor will monitor your health and tweak your diabetes treatment plan as needed