heart disease 3

Does Weight Loss Surgery Impact the Risk of Heart Disease?

June 3, 2019

Heart disease is the leading cause of death for both men and women in the United States. More specifically, heart disease is the cause of about 630,000 deaths, or one in four deaths, in the U.S. every year, according to the Centers for Disease Control. There are numerous risk factors for heart disease, such as high blood pressure, high cholesterol, diabetes, obesity, tobacco use, poor dietary habits, physical inactivity, excessive alcohol use, and family history.

Obesity is an Independent Risk Factor for Heart Disease

Obesity is a growing problem in the United States, with an estimated 40% of American adults being considered obese according to recent CDC estimates.

A study published in April 2018 in the journal JAMA Cardiology found that not only are adults who are overweight or obese more likely to develop cardiovascular disease compared to their normal-weight peers, people who are overweight or obese are also more likely to develop cardiovascular disease at a younger age and have a shorter lifespan. Obesity has been identified as an independent risk factor for heart disease, according to the American Heart Association.

There are numerous ways that obesity can result in heart disease. Obesity is directly associated with numerous medical conditions that increase the risk of developing heart disease, such as high blood pressure, high cholesterol, diabetes, sleep apnea. In addition to obesity-related medical conditions that are risk factors for heart disease, being overweight or obese can also cause dangerous inflammation in the body. Inflammation is a common marker in both cardiovascular disease and stroke patients and, if not corrected, can lead to serious problems.

Additionally, obesity can cause structural and functional problems with the heart and blood vessels, such as atherosclerosis, a condition in which plaque builds up, thickening the artery walls and restricting blood flow through the arteries to organs and tissues throughout the body. Also, carrying around excess weight also makes the heart work harder to provide oxygen-rich blood to the body and can impact the heart’s rhythm and increase the thickness of heart muscles, adding strain to the heart.

Losing Weight Can Dramatically Improve Heart Health

Amidst all the health risks for people who are overweight or obese, there is some good news. Losing weight can dramatically improve heart health, and weight loss surgery is proven to improve risk factors for heart-related health conditions, including Type 2 diabetes and high blood pressure.

According to the American Society for Metabolic and Bariatric Surgery (ASMBS), weight loss surgery reduces a patient’s risk of heart disease by 40 percent.

Researchers at Cleveland Clinic Florida analyzed data of 1,330 patients with a body mass index (BMI) of 40 or more who had no history of coronary heart disease and who had either gastric sleeve or gastric bypass surgery. Prior to surgery, all patients had prehypertension, 60 percent had arterial hypertension and 40 percent had Type 2 diabetes.

Of the more than 1,300 patients in the study, 225 patients had their heart disease risk calculated by the Framingham Coronary Heart Disease Risk Score based on known risk factors. Of these patients, their risk for developing heart disease in 10 years was eight times higher than the general population.

One year after bariatric surgery, these patients’ chances of developing heart disease within 10 years dropped by 40 percent with significant improvements in blood pressure and diabetes. More than 40 percent of patients experienced complete resolution of their diabetes, and 44 percent no longer had hypertension. On average, patients lost more than 25 percent of their total body weight and their BMI dropped by nearly 70 percent. If you have obesity (BMI of 30 or higher) or if you have existing weight-related medical conditions, you may be a candidate for bariatric surgery. Contact an experienced bariatric surgeon to learn more and find out if you are a candidate.

How to Improve Your Health & Reduce Risk of Heart Disease

Losing even a small amount of weight can ease the strain on your heart and improve risk factors associated with heart disease.

While weight loss surgery can significantly lower heart risk for patients who qualify, even if you aren’t a candidate for weight loss surgery, there are lifestyle changes you can make to help improve your health and reduce your risk of developing heart disease.

  1. Eat a healthy diet. A heart-healthy diet consists of plenty of vegetables, some fruits, lean meat like chicken and fish and drinking lots of water. Avoid processed foods, sugar and liquid calories as much as possible. If you need help developing a healthy eating plan, consider working with a registered dietician or nutritionist.
  2. Get more exercise. Cardio (aerobic) and strength training exercise are both important for heart health. The American Heart Association recommends adults get a minimum of 150 minutes of moderately intense exercise each week. That’s just 30 minutes, five days a week. And it can be broken down into even more management segments of 10 to 15 minutes each, two or three times per day.
  3. Quit smoking. It is well known that smoking cigarettes and using other types of tobacco can increase your risk of heart disease. Consult with your physician for a smoking cessation program, if needed.
  4. Limit alcohol. Too much alcohol intake can increase the risk of developing high blood pressure, high triglycerides (a type of fat in the body) or irregular heartbeats. Excessive alcohol use may also contribute to obesity and other health problems.
  5. Reduce your stress. Some studies point to a relationship between heart disease risk and stress. If you are under stress, you are more likely to overeat or start smoking and may develop high blood pressure, all of which can increase your risk for coronary heart disease.
  6. Manage diabetes. If you have diabetes, modify your diet and work closely with your doctor to manage your condition with medications if indicated.
  7. Lower blood pressure. Reduce your salt intake, exercise regularly and take medications as prescribed by your doctor to keep your blood pressure in check.

Any weight loss can make a big difference in the health of your heart. If you would like to know more about weight loss surgery, contact an experienced bariatric surgeon in your area to discuss your options and find out if you are a candidate for weight loss surgery.

Brian Long


Dr. Brian Long specializes in laparoscopic bariatric surgery, performing sleeve gastrectomy, gastric bypass, duodenal switch and revisional procedures. With impressive credentials from prestigious hospitals in Washington DC and helping troops in the Persian Gulf, Dr. Long has most recently been with the Nicholson Clinic for Weight Loss Surgery, one the country’s premier destinations for weight loss, since 2015. The Nicholson Clinic has helped more than 25,000 patients, coming from all 50 states and 11 countries.