It isn’t just about decreasing the number on the scale – weight loss surgery can change your life. But how do you know when it’s right for you?
Craig Floch, MD, offers a few ways to tell if you’re ready for weight loss surgery.
Luckily, the National Institutes of Health (NIH) has already started the calculation.
The most common gauge to determine eligibility for bariatric surgery is body mass index (BMI), a figure determined by comparing body mass to height. Higher weight equals higher BMI.
Recent changes to guidelines set by the NIH have made bariatric surgery available to more candidates, by:
- Lowering the minimum BMI for people with no medical problems from 40 to 35
- Lowering the BMI for people with medical problems from 35 to 30
However, as Dr. Floch explains, people with lower BMI can be considered surgical candidates if they have co-occurring health issues like diabetes, high blood pressure or sleep apnea.
> Related: You May Be Eligible for Weight Loss Surgery Based on New Guidelines
Worried about your age?
Don’t be. According to Dr. Floch, there is no strict rule about patient age.
“We see adults only, but there is no upper age limit. It’s at the discretion of the doctor and patient,” he notes.
Ready for weight loss surgery
But BMI isn’t the only factor to consider – patients need to be emotionally and physically ready for surgery, too.
“There are several steps. This is not a quick fix and the rules vary by insurance company,” Dr. Floch says.
Questions he and other providers ask potential patients include:
- Have you tried other forms of weight loss, either diets, exercise or medication? What have you tried?
- Have you lost weight and regained it – and maybe more?
- Are you prepared to take steps necessary to ensure the weight stays off after surgery? This includes working with a nutritionist or exercise physiologist to develop healthy habits to make weight loss long-term.
- Will you commit to taking daily vitamin supplements for the rest of your life? The surgery impacts the body’s ability to absorb necessary vitamins and minerals from food.
The general size of Americans has been increasing for years, with about 9 million qualifying for weight loss surgery or medical weight loss, Dr. Floch notes. Only about 220,000 will have surgery this year.
“Despite how hard we’re trying to control obesity, the numbers continue to rise each year,” he says.