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Obesity Related Diseases

The primary goal of bariatric surgery is to improve or eliminate the diseases associated with excess body weight and obesity. These diseases, also known as comorbidities, have a profound effect on an obese person’s life. With over a third of the United States population being obese, and over two-thirds overweight, obesity related diseases have increased dramatically over the past several decades.

Beyond the health issues that co-morbidities cause, the cost to the individual and to society as a whole is staggering. We spend over $147 billion a year (2008 dollars)1 fighting the effects of obesity and according to a George Washington University Hospital study conducted in 20112, the cost of obesity to the average male is over $2600 per year, while the cost of obesity to the average female is over $4800 per year. This study did not take into account what it costs the obese individual in missed opportunities.

The major obesity related diseases are:

  • Type-II diabetes. Adult onset or type-II diabetes has been called the “silent killer.” Patients may, for years, be diabetic without feeling any ill effects. However, diabetes, an increased level of sugar in the blood due to insulin resistance, can cause a host of health issues including blindness, circulation problems that lead to amputation of limbs, and eventually death, if left untreated.
  • High cholesterol. Cholesterol, which accumulates in the bloodstream and forms plaque on artery walls, is one of the most common ailments seen in those who carry excess body weight. When plaque attaches itself to the walls of veins and arteries throughout the body, it can restrict blood flow and make the heart work harder to pump blood. Ultimately, heart disease may result, which can lead to heart attack or stroke. High cholesterol can be managed with medication such as statins.
  • High blood pressure also known as hypertension is a chronic disorder that causes the heart to pump more vigorously and can ultimately lead to chronic heart disease and congestive heart failure.
  • Sleep Apnea. With an increase in weight comes an increased risk of obstructive sleep apnea, where the throat’s airways are partially or fully obstructed for a time, during sleep. This may manifest itself as simple snoring or can be as severe as irregular brief pauses in breathing. Oxygen deprivation and sleep deprivation can result amongst other complications.
  • Cancer. Obese patients are at an increased risk of developing many forms of cancer including breast, uterine, colon, esophageal and stomach.

1“Causes and Consequences.” Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 27 Apr. 2012. Web. 01 May 2013. 2Avi Dor, Ph.D., Christine Ferguson, J.D., Casey Langwith, B.A., Ellen Tan, M.Sc. “A Heavy Burden: The Individual Costs of Being Overweight and Obese in the United States.” The George Washington University School of Public Health and Health Services Department of Health Policy. 21 Sep. 2010. Web. 01 May 2013.

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