Obesity in the United States more than doubled in the last 30 years of the twentieth century and in the first few years of this century it has truly taken off with an estimated 15 million Americans now being classed as severely or morbidly obese. Although the United States leads the world in terms of obesity, the picture globally is far from good and the World Health Organization now considers obesity to be a global epidemic.
The number of deaths from obesity in the United States, which continues to rise annually, had reached a staggering 400,000 by the turn of the century and this places obesity only a short head behind smoking which remains the number one killer in America today.
As obesity continues to grow an increasing number of people are turning to surgery for morbid obesity as the cure for their weight problem.
Surgery is not however an easy option, even with the introduction of simpler surgical techniques such as laparoscopic adjustable gastric banding approved for use in the US by the FDA in June 2001.
It is nevertheless an effective solution and can not only produce dramatic weight loss in a relatively short space of time but can also allow patients to maintain their weight loss ââ‚¬ââ‚¬œ something that traditional diet and exercise simple does not achieve.
The problem however is that obesity is seen very much as a problem of weight and surgery is viewed very much as a form of radical but effective diet. Doctors insist that patients try a regime of diet and exercise before embarking on surgery, as do the insurance companies, and it is only when a normal diet program fails that they turn to the more drastic surgical diet. This is all well and good, but it seems to miss the central point at issue.
Being overweight doesn’t kill you!
People do not die because they are overweight. They die because being overweight places a strain on the body and gives rise to a variety of conditions such as type 2 diabetes, hypertension, sleep apnea and liver disease which can result in death.
Now if you are admitted to hospital with coronary heart disease and the doctors recommend heart surgery as your best or only option nobody, including your insurance company, is going to question the surgeon’s recommendation.
But, if you are severely obese and go into hospital with hypertension which your doctor feels will almost certainly lead to coronary artery disease if not treated and recommends surgery to cure your severe obesity, and consequently relieve your hypertension, everybody is going to hold up there hands and say “hang on a minute all we need here is a regime of diet and exercise”.
As a society we tend to view obesity as being something of a “personal problem” which most people could have avoided if they had taken better care of themselves. Weight loss surgery is also all too often viewed as a “cosmetic” procedure designed to make people look and feel better and to allow them to get back to leading the active and enjoyable lifestyle which they enjoyed before they put on so much weight.
It is all too easy to ignore the fact that we as a society have created many of the conditions which all too frequently lead to obesity and that those suffering from severe obesity face the very real possibility of death without the ability to get the help they need.