Diseases & Conditions

Is Weight Loss Surgery Possible if You Have Heart Disease?

By on 01/16/2017

If you struggle with obesity and heart disease, you may think weight loss surgery is out of reach. But the truth is, many people with heart disease are good candidates for bariatric (weight loss) surgery.

Renee Tholey, MD

Renee Tholey, MD

“People with heart disease can absolutely be candidates for weight loss surgery,” says Renee Tholey, MD, a bariatric surgeon at Einstein Healthcare Network. Dr. Tholey specializes in minimally-invasive surgery and robotics. “We will ask you to see your cardiologist—or we can set you up with one here at Einstein—prior to surgery. You may need an ultrasound of your heart or further workup to ensure your heart is in the best condition it can be.”

Weight loss surgery works by changing the structure of your stomach and digestive system. It is a highly effective means of combating severe obesity and maintaining weight loss in the long term. It also helps reduce the symptoms associated with heart disease.

The American Heart Association says bariatric surgery may provide significant health benefits for adults with a body mass index (BMI) of 40 or higher and those with a BMI of 35 or higher that have other cardiovascular risk factors such as diabetes or high blood pressure.

There are multiple research studies that show improvement in blood pressure, high cholesterol, sleep apnea, heart disease and diabetes following weight loss surgery,” says Dr. Tholey (right). “Many patients are able to decrease the amount of medications they are taking daily and often come off several medications completely.”

“People with heart disease can absolutely be candidates for weight loss surgery.”—Renee Tholey, MD

Read more about “Curing Diabetes with Weight Loss Surgery.”

Both the gastric bypass and the gastric sleeve weight loss procedures can be highly effective and beneficial for patients with heart disease. During gastric bypass surgery, the stomach is re-formed to create a smaller stomach pouch that is connected to a section of the small intestine. This limits the amount of food that can be eaten at one time and the calories that are absorbed from that food. During gastric sleeve surgery, up to 75 percent of the stomach is removed, which limits the amount of food that can be eaten at one time.

“The type of procedure a person should have is determined after we meet with that person to discuss their goals and concerns, surgical history and comfort level,” says Dr. Tholey.

And while both procedures are surgery, they are performed as minimally-invasive surgeries using small, thin instruments inserted via five or six small incisions in the abdomen. Minimally-invasive surgery poses less risk for all patients, including those with heart disease. Both procedures are done in about an hour, and patients typically only stay overnight before going home. And weight loss surgery has been proven to not only help people lose weight and keep the weight off, but to increase quality of life as well.

Anyone considering weight loss surgery should look for a bariatric program that has been nationally-recognized by the American College of Surgeons as an accredited center. People with heart disease should be particularly selective and look for two things: a high-volume center and a dedicated staff of surgeons, physician assistants and nutritionists that specializes in bariatric surgery.

Read more about Einstein Bariatric’s full team.

People who have had prior heart attacks, congestive heart failure or are bedridden or severely limited in movement are at higher risk and would need clearance from their specialists before having weight loss surgery. “But rarely is heart disease a reason to not have weight loss surgery,” says Dr. Tholey.

Learn if weight loss surgery is right for you. Call 1-800-346-7834 or go online to Einstein.edu/bariatrics to see the schedule of free information sessions.

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Perspectives highlights the expertise and services provided by the physicians, specialists, nurses and other healthcare providers at Einstein Healthcare Network. Through this blog, we share information about new treatments and technologies, top-tier clinical teams and the day-to-day interactions that reinforce our commitment to delivering quality care with compassion. Here, you will also find practical advice for championing your health and wellness. The Einstein Healthcare Network "Terms of Use" apply to all content on this blog.