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Weight loss surgery can help control diabetes, hypertension

BY SHANAE STEWART
Observer staff reporter
stewarts@jamaicaobserver.com

Thursday, August 22, 2019

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Weight loss surgery is a viable option to control comorbidities such as hypertension and diabetes, but not many people are informed about this, one of the island's expert surgeons has said.

“A lot of research has shown that hypertension and diabetes can actually be improved or cured with weight loss surgery, or with control of weight. And, with patients who have tried to lose weight and have failed, this is an option for them,” Dr Pierre Leake, laparoscopic and weight loss surgeon at the University Hospital of the West Indies, told reporters and editors at this week's Jamaica Observer Monday Exchange.

“The main aspect of surgery for weight loss is that it's a jump-start in a sense. It's not the end result, but a means to try to start a lifestyle that can improve health overall. It's not just physical appearance,” Dr Leake stated.

“We know that obesity is a problem. We see a lot of headlines; the minister and the ministry have focused a lot on people being overweight or obese and trying to reduce that. There is a survey — the Jamaica Health and Lifestyle Survey — back in 2017 that shows that 54 per cent of Jamaicans were either overweight or obese, and even though there are strategies to help to improve on that, surgery is a part of that, and I think that is an aspect that has not been mentioned or focused on,” Dr Leake said.

He also noted that weight loss surgery is applicable to people who are of a particular weight and body mass index (BMI), which is used as a determinant of overall weight versus height.

“The persons who are usually offered weight loss surgery are persons who have a BMI of over 40, so that's morbidly obese, or 35 if you have hypertension. And the reason why there is this specific criteria is because there are complications, risks, and lifestyle changes that will come into play, and therefore it has to be the right candidate,” he said.

Pointing to a World Health Organization and United Nations Development Programme study showing that Jamaica will spend over $70 million between 2017 and 2030 on managing comorbidities like hypertension and diabetes, Dr Leake said that the country needs to look at ways to reduce or eliminate that spend.

“The expertise is here, but I think the main issues are the uptake, the knowledge, as well as some resource challenges that we definitely would have to look at in terms of the institutions, government, and private entities,” the surgeon said.


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