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About Obesity

What is Obesity?

In recent years, we have slowly begun to understand obesity as a disease - a chronic disease that requires medical attention. We now believe that obesity is a complex condition with genetic, environmental, cultural, and psychological causes. It is a mistake to "blame" extreme obesity on a simple lack of willpower. In the United States alone, obesity affects one in five individuals in the general population. For many people with this devastating illness, diets alone rarely, if ever, produce lasting results.

Obesity is now the second leading cause of preventable death in the United States. The only preventable condition that kills more people than obesity is cigarette smoking.  It is estimated that about 300,000 people a year die from obesity and obesity-related disease.

Extremely obese people have a shorter lifespan than non-obese people.  Medical conditions associated with obesity include diabetes, high blood pressure, heart disease, sleep apnea, stroke, arthritis, and several types of cancer.  Psychological effects can be equally devastating and include shame, guilt, and depression.

For people with the most extreme forms of obesity, weight loss surgery may offer hope of significant, lasting weight loss.  The surgery provides the extra help that many people with extreme obesity need.  It creates changes in the digestive system that help patients alter their eating habits.  This becomes part of a comprehensive, life-long health plan that includes other components such as regular exercise, healthy food choices, and close, ongoing monitoring by members of a health care team.  

Isn't Weight Loss Surgery a drastic way to lose weight?

The decision to have a weight loss surgery (WLS)  should be made carefully.  It should be made only with a full understanding of the risks and benefits of the procedure, the knowledge and willingness to accept the lifestyle changes imposed by the procedure and committing to life-long follow-up with the Bariatric Team.  It is strongly recommended that you speak with others who have had a similar operation, research the issues on your own, and attend an information session prior to your initial appointment.

Obesity and obesity-related illnesses such as hypertension, type 2 diabetes, stroke, cardiovascular disease, and several forms of cancer are increasing at alarming rates in the US. Following weight loss surgery, patients experience improvement in obesity-related illnesses, and the risk of early death is diminished. For seriously obese patients who have been unsuccessful in non-surgical weight loss methods such as diets, medications, behavior modification, or exercise programs, weight loss surgery may be a life-saving intervention. That is, for many patients, the risks of remaining obese are more significant than the risks of problems from weight loss surgery.

 

Contact Information

Weight Loss Surgery Center
Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center
Shapiro Clinical Center, 3rd Floor
330 Brookline Avenue
Boston, MA 02215
617.667.2845
617.667.2866
wls@bidmc.harvard.edu