Bariatric surgery is a viable weight-loss option for many people who think they do not qualify
For most people seeking weight loss, a diet and exercise program can do the trick. But some people can work at weight loss like it’s a full-time job and still realize no results. This is where different types of bariatric surgeries can be a solution, especially to those who are unsure if they qualify. Such was the case for Cardelia Clark, a 67-year-old mother and retired administrator with the North Carolina Department of Public Safety. “After I retired, the weight just started coming on and nothing I did could get it off,” she said, referring to numerous diets, popular weight-loss programs and lots of exercising.
At 5’9” and 260 pounds, Clark’s BMI was 38.4, which is classified as obese. BMI stands for body mass index and is a measure of body fat based on height and weight. A quick internet search can yield several online BMI calculators.
Clark isn’t alone. In the south-central region of North Carolina, including the counties of Moore, Montgomery, Lee, Harnett, Cumberland, Hoke, Scotland and Richmond, about one in every three residents is obese with a BMI of 30 or more.
“When friends, family and neighbors are also obese, it seems normal and is not recognized as a problem,” said Melissa Herman, registered dietitian and program manager of the FirstHealth Bariatric Center. “But obesity is a tremendous health and wellness problem. More than 50 diseases are tied to it.”
Clark’s BMI meant she was more than twice as likely to die from obesity-related diseases such as heart disease, stroke, diabetes and some types of cancer. One of her wake-up calls was a breast cancer diagnosis in 2017. “Breast cancer and obesity are related, so I knew I had to do something,” she said.
Even before her breast cancer diagnosis, Clark had considered bariatric surgery as a possible solution. She has two sisters who underwent successful weight-loss procedures – one had a gastric bypass and the other a gastric sleeve. Both are different types of bariatric surgical procedures that makes the stomach smaller, limiting the amount of food that can be eaten.
Herman said many people think the qualification for bariatric surgery is a BMI of 40 or more, but that is not always the case. “If an individual age 18 or older has a BMI between 35 and 40, has a related health issue such as high blood pressure or diabetes and the weight doesn’t come off with diet and exercise, bariatric surgery is an option to consider,” she said.
“For people like Cardelia who are in that 35 to 40 BMI range, bariatric surgery has proven to be the most successful method for effective and long-lasting weight loss that improves health and quality of life” said Herman. “It is a way to rewind the clock and start fresh.” For those unsure, consulting a doctor or medical professional about whether or not they would qualify for bariatric surgery can open new opportunities for an improved lifestyle.
That has rung true with Clark. Dr. Raymond Washington, Jr. performed a gastric sleeve procedure in September 2018 and Clark’s weight dropped from 260 to 190 pounds. “My future is great,” said Clark, whose is almost at her goal weight of 180 to 185 pounds. “I keep asking God to give me more years of service, and with my lower weight, I can be healthy with lots of mobility to be a viable citizen.”
The FirstHealth Bariatric Center has been accredited as a comprehensive center under the Metabolic and Bariatric Surgery Accreditation and Quality Improvement Program (MBSAQIP), a joint program of the American College of Surgeons (ACS) and the American Society for Metabolic and Bariatric Surgery (ASMBS). For more information about the program, visit www.NCWeightLossSurgery.org.