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Health Spotlight: Bariatric surgery: New guidelines

INDIANAPOLIS (WISH) — Obesity is a huge problem in America with nearly 15 million people termed grossly overweight.

Some of them are candidates for weight loss surgery, not only to help them lose weight but also to lower the more important number: body mass index, or BMI.

For years, that BMI had to be 40 to qualify for surgery, but, a few months ago, the government had to lower it to 30.

A total of 42.9% of American adults are classified as obese with a body mass index of 30 or higher.

Dr. Kuldeep Singh from Mercy Medical Baltimore said, “As it climbs up and up, with every five increased points in BMI, somebody’s chances of dying goes up by 30%.”

It’s a statistic not lost on Kate Gauss, who at 5 feet 3 inches used to weigh 270 pounds with a BMI of 47.

“My whole life I had been overweight, and I felt like if I lose that weight, then I lose part of who I am,” Gauss said.

Gauss is a diabetic, but, even more alarming, her body fat was choking her liver. “We found that I had an enlarged fatty liver.”

Singh said, “When somebody realizes that there is a problem with their obesity, I think they cross a line. Either something happened in their life, or something they were doing that they couldn’t do anymore.”

Shortly after that bad news, Gauss’ sugar levels soared, and she was hit with nonalcoholic fatty liver disease. Kate had weight-loss surgery, bringing her weight down to 148 and her BMI to 26 in 18 months.

“The beauty of gastric bypass is that it’s tested for over 60 years,” Singh said.

After three decades of needing a BMI of 40 to qualify for surgery, the government lowered that number to 30 because obesity soared by 170%.

“Surgery is essentially just a tool, but that’s all it is — it’s a tool. you still have to put in the work,” Gauss said.

Bariatric surgery improves all obesity-related health problems including heart disease, stroke, cancer and even sleep apnea. Singh says there are two types and he recommends gastric sleeve surgery.

This story was created from a script aired on WISH-TV. Health Spotlight is presented by Community Health Network.