Monday, January 25, 2016

New Year’s Resolutions

As I write this, it’s one week after the first day of 2016, and I’m still thinking about my resolutions for the year — or, I should say, I’m still making my resolutions. My first one, obviously, should be to stop procrastinating. If there was a rating for procrastination, mine definitely would be five stars. In fact, nearing the end of 2015, I decided I wouldn’t make resolutions for 2016, because I usually have made them in the past and haven’t followed through with them.

But now, I realize that I have actually completed (mostly) one of my annual resolutions. It is one many people make each year — to lose weight. I have lost more than 60 pounds since September!

I thought this was worth sharing, because I took an approach that some people would consider extreme and that many may be considering. I decided to have gastric bypass surgery, which was performed Sept. 26, 2015. Like most of the people who decide to go through this procedure, I had yo-yoed up and down for years trying various diets and types of exercise to lose weight. Usually, gastric bypass patients have other comorbidities, such as diabetes, high blood pressure, high cholesterol, and sleep apnea, among others.

In my situation, I was concerned about my sleep apnea for which I used a continuous positive airway pressure (CPAP) device, and I started taking blood pressure and cholesterol medications about two years ago. In the group-orientation meetings that the clinic holds for patients, I heard convincing evidence that this procedure could be great for me both short-term and long-term.

My weight loss is above the target for this time after my surgery, as the goal is to lose the computed excess weight in 12 months. So I am making above-average progress. I also am off both my high blood pressure and cholesterol medications and can get a good night’s sleep without the CPAP device. I have adapted to the changes in eating habits, and now have no restrictions on what I eat. I am physically restricted from overeating. My energy level is great, and I’m looking forward to buying a new wardrobe in about three months.

What I see as the greatest benefit from this procedure is what is does for patients with diabetes. Within a short period of time, and in most cases in just a couple days, they are taken off their diabetes medications, including insulin. The surgeon told us of one patient who was diabetic, but only slightly overweight, who asked for the surgery to cure her diabetes. Because she was not clinically obese, her insurance company would not cover the procedure, but she was willing to pay the $18,000 fee (if only many of our dental patients had this same attitude), knowing that she was the only non-obese patient he had ever treated with the sole aim of ending her diabetes. The operation was a success, and the patient is now a non-diabetic.

My advice to anyone who might be considering this procedure is to first find a surgeon who specializes in gastric bypass surgery and does the procedure endoscopically, as my surgeon does. Open gastric bypass has a history of problems. Secondly, listen to everything they tell you to expect following the surgery regarding normal healing sequela, required diet regimen, and necessary vitamin and mineral supplementation. Third, exercise daily. A minimum of 30 minutes of vigorous walking is all that is required, but you will find that you will be increasing this because you probably will like it. Finally, don’t be afraid to talk about your experience with your friends. At some point after the surgery, your friends probably will notice that you “suddenly” have lost a lot of weight and may be concerned that you have a health problem. My answer has been: “Thank you for noticing! I had gastric bypass surgery to help with my weight loss, and I feel great!” You likely will have more questions to answer, but the conversation usually ends with my friend saying: “Wow, that’s great, and I’m proud of you!”

If you have questions about this procedure or locating a surgeon in your area, I’ll be happy to answer what I can and check with my surgeon for referrals in your location. Maybe the key to completing those difficult resolutions every year is to consider a different approach.

Have a prosperous and happy new year.

Terry G. Box, DDS, MAGD

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