In 2006, Kenneth Hood weighed more than 300 pounds and had a host of health issues. Today, he maintains his weight around 175 pounds and is healthy.

Weight-loss Surgery as a Treatment for
Type 2 Diabetes

By the time Kenneth Hood considered gastric bypass surgery in 2006, he had gained and lost 100 pounds twice and was tipping the scale at 325 pounds.

Hood was battling hypertension, high cholesterol, sleep apnea, back aches and type 2 diabetes. Taking five different medications to manage his health risks was the norm.

But within months of his surgery at Staten Island University Hospital, Hood no longer required them, including two medications for his diabetes.

"My blood sugar was normal. My blood pressure was normal. I didn't have the PVCs, the little [heart] palpitations that were also part of the hypertension. I stopped with the sleep apnea," explained the 50-year-old New Dorp father of two. "It's all from the weight loss."

Like Hood, countless others who have undergone weight-loss (aka bariatric) surgery have experienced similar improvements in their health.

"Weight loss surgery is not just about pounds," explained Dr. Karen E. Gibbs, director of Bariatric Surgery at SIUH's Ocean Breeze campus. "What we recognize over time is that as people are losing weight, certain illnesses like diabetes, high blood pressure, high cholesterol, sleep apnea, and heart disease are also improving."

Mounting evidence of these benefits has led the International Diabetes Federation in March to throw its support behind bariatric surgery-such as gastric bypass, lap band and sleeve gastrectomy-as a treatment option for type 2 diabetics who are obese and have a BMI of 35 or more.

"Bariatric surgery for severely obese people with type 2 diabetes should be considered much earlier in management rather than held back as a last resort," said IDF spokesman Prof. Sir George Alberti, a renowned London-based diabetes researcher.

According to the IDF-an umbrella organization of over 200 national diabetes associations in over 160 countries-type 2 diabetes is one of the fastest growing diseases with close to 300 million people affected worldwide and 450 million estimated to have it by 2030.

Gastric bypass surgery, such as the type Hood underwent, involves several steps, explained Dr. Gibbs.

First, a patient's stomach is divided into two sections: a small upper pouch for food intake and larger one below.

"You're no longer going to be using the larger portion because it's disconnected," said the surgeon. "Then we take a portion of the intestine and connect it to that small stomach so it bypasses the larger portion of the stomach."

The smaller stomach restricts the amount of food a patient eats and the altered digestive tract limits the amount of calories and nutrients absorbed which enables weight loss.

But the procedure is just the first step toward improved health for the patient, cautions Dr. Gibbs.

"The surgery is only one portion of the work that is necessary to be successful," she explained. "Having a healthy diet and an exercise regimen is important in terms of getting to the weight loss as well as maintaining it for a lifetime."

That advice is something that Hood adheres to in his dietary choices-no carbonated beverages or doughy treats like bagels-and physical activities such as bike riding, golf, walking, and dancing.

Nearly five years after his surgery, Hood, an MRI supervisor at Verrazano Radiology in Ocean Breeze, maintains his weight at around 175 pounds. His healthier weight allows him to do things that were once beyond his grasp.

As a longtime Boy Scout leader, Hood vividly remembers the feeling of defeat 12 years ago while leading his troop on an 9-mile hike through the historic Gettysburg Battlefield. The excess weight taxed his stamina. Hood's knees, hips and lower back ached, and he felt lightheaded.

"I just couldn't do it. I had to get a ride back half way through it," recalled Hood.

He also knows the thrill of victory leading his troop through the same battlefield three years after his weight-loss surgery.

"When we did it again in 2009, there was no problem," he said.

In addition, Hood counts little things like being able to buy clothes off the rack instead of a specialty big and tall shop and fitting comfortably into seats in the theater as a huge plus.

"The larger part of weight-loss surgery is really getting to a healthier lifestyle, losing a lot of those medical problems that patients are often suffering with, and living longer," said Dr. Gibbs.

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