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Weight Loss Surgery in Houston: Hope for a City Troubled by Obesity

For three years in a row (2001 to 2003) the city of Houston, TX was ranked as America’s Fattest City by Men’s Fitness Magazine. In the May 2010 issue, the city’s rank had improved but was still at a problematic #9. The magazine lists several causes for Houston’s weight problem: lack of outdoor recreation and poor air quality deter outdoor exercise while high fast-food consumption leads to poor nutrition. Weight loss surgery—such as gastric bypass surgery—has proven extremely beneficial for thousands of people whose obesity has been caused through various factors. Given its track record of success, this type of surgery can certainly alleviate many of the health problems facing America’s fourth largest city.

Bariatric surgery (another term for weight loss surgery) leads to a patient’s weight loss by a restrictive method, a malabsorbtive method or through a combination of both techniques. With the restrictive method, which includes lap band and gastric sleeve surgeries, part of the stomach is made smaller so that the patient feels full quickly and consumes less food. Surgeons using a malabsorbtive approach remove a section of the stomach to lower the amount of calories it is able to absorb; biliopancreatic diversion is an example of this kind of surgery. Gastric bypass surgery combines both of these techniques, reducing stomach size and its ability to absorb calories.

For the thousands of Houstonians struggling with morbid obesity, these surgical options can provide a second chance at a healthier lifestyle. Those who have difficulty exercising due to excess weight are often able to adopt a more vigorous fitness routine after bariatric surgery (if the obstacles to exercising in Houston’s outdoors are a problem, there are several indoor workouts available). Many patients who have undergone weight loss surgery also experience a decrease in symptoms of diabetes, sleep apnea and high blood pressure.

Houston’s weight problems may attract undesired attention, but the city’s situation is far from unique. It is only indicative of the widespread obesity epidemic faced by the entire country. Weight loss surgery may not be the answer for every obese person, but for millions of Americans it is the likeliest chance they have to improve their health and quality of life.

About Author
Clifton E. Thomas, MD, FACS, is a board-certified weight loss surgeon who performs lap band, gastric bypass and sleeve gastrectomy procedures in Nacogdoches and Houston, Texas. He also offers his patients the option of undergoing lap band surgery in Mexico.

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