By Steve Sears
Nearly half of all Americans are obese, defined as a body mass index of 30 or more, and morbid obesity has played a significant role in the most severe cases of those inflicted with Covid-19, as well as causing a multitude of severe health issues. The proportion of Americans who are obese or overweight has grown dramatically in recent years. Closer to home, roughly one in four New Jerseyans, both adult men and women, are struggling with obesity.
Saint Clare’s Health was the first in Morris County to be designated a Center of Excellence by the American Society of Metabolic and Bariatric Surgery, and that includes adolescents. Saint Clare’s Hospital offers a comprehensive approach to address significant weight loss challenges. Their program is designed for long-term weight loss and includes free informational seminars and nutritional counseling.
According to Dr. Aram Jawed, a bariatric surgeon at Saint Clare’s Health, “The studies released from New York in April, 2020 for the top risk factors of patients with COVID-19 requiring mechanical ventilation and ending up in the ICU, indicated that age was the number one risk factor. The number two risk factor was actually Morbid Obesity.”
Dr. Jawed explained, “I don’t think most people realize that. People thought a significant risk factor was heart disease or pulmonary disease or smokers or other issues that caused the most severe cases in patients with COVID-19. It actually wasn’t. If you’re obese with a body mass index above 35, your immunity is hampered by the fact that you have this constant inflammatory response in your body.”
Dr. Jawed, who is currently writing a book, selected bariatrics as his field of study and practice because bariatric surgery is the only surgery that can heal more than 16 health issues in the human body, ranging from heart disease and diabetes to infertility. “I can name a few, just from head to toe. Just from the head on down, you can think of so many.” Count migraine headaches, sleep apnea, high blood pressure, decreased libido/erectile dysfunction, swollen hands and feet, and much more that are affected by obesity. “The good news is that losing a significant amount of weight can actually reverse a number of comorbidities!”
Significant weight loss resulting from bariatric surgery positively affects every system in the body. In addition to longevity, the overall quality of life is significantly improved. Self-esteem, mobility, and relationship and social interactions.
The three most common Bariatric procedures, FDA approved insurance procedures in order of popularity, are the Laparoscopic Vertical Sleeve Gastrectomy; the Laparoscopic Roux-en-Y Gastric Bypass; and Laparoscopic Adjustable Gastric Banding.
Dr. Jawed explains the three in brief. “The adjustable gastric band is not a hormonal procedure, it’s not changing your anatomy at all, so it’s not going to really affect or change your metabolism or the hunger hormone. It’s truly the least effective of the three. But if you are someone with a much lower BMI who doesn’t have medical problems that wants weight loss that’s better than just diet and exercise, then that may be a good procedure.”
“The next option is a gastric bypass, and that has really stood the test of time. That’s the gold standard procedure. This is a great procedure for uncontrolled diabetics, as well as very high BMI patients because you don’t want the body to absorb so much sugar and carbs,” Dr. Jawed continues.
“Then, the most popular option is the sleeve gastrectomy. We’re removing a portion of the stomach. That’s the most distensible organ in your body, and it contains many of the hunger hormones and the stretch receptors that encourage you to fill your stomach to capacity. And so, when we take that portion out, you’re left with the stomach in the shape of a banana, and that stomach does not stretch anymore. You are basically tricking your body into believing that a much smaller amount of food is more than you need for your meal.”
For those who fear there may be risks with Bariatric surgery, Dr. Jawed says the risks of continuing in a current obese lifestyle are worse. “I always say to my patients that the risk of you continuing with this lifestyle, and what your medical problems are, that risk is a lot scarier than the 45-minute to one-hour procedure. The risks of Bariatric surgery have been proven to be less than the risks of general surgery. We’re talking risks that are less than 1%.”
The key advantage to Saint Clare’s bariatric program is the hospital’s multidisciplinary approach. “It’s almost a one stop shop,” says Dr. Jawed. “We have a registered dietitian, registered nurses, and a bariatric coordinator to help our patients achieve their goal. We have our own dedicated bariatrics team. Additionally, there is a psychological aspect to this, which we address with the support groups that are offered to patients free of charge every month. During the pandemic, we’ve been conducting virtual support groups that have proven very helpful. We also have Facebook groups as well, and we have in-person or online support groups. We want you to be successful, and we will be with you every step of the way!”
Saint Clare’s Health has a dedicated, skilled nursing floor for Bariatrics with private rooms equipped with bariatric beds, seating, and other amenities for safe, comfortable and dignified care. “It’s almost like a boutique hospital for Bariatric surgery,” Jawed proudly states.” Our integrative team is comprised of experts that understand both the mental and physical effect of obesity, and we work with our patients on a solution that best fits their needs.”
Saint Clare’s Health is located at 25 Pocono Road in Denville. For more information on Bariatrics, visit www.stclares.com, or call 973-989-3047 for a Free seminar.