Lengthening Lifespan – Bariatric Surgery Over Age 60

October 14, 2015

Today, men and women who choose a surgical weight loss solution are more common than ever before. Some of this increase is a result of more people at the younger and older end of the spectrum pursuing this tool in order to finally defeat their battle with excess weight, which is associated with metabolic syndrome.

There is a particularly urgent need to control the obesity epidemic that has compounded both the health and economic burden on seniors today. Since 2008, Americans aged 65 and older have seen the sharpest uptick in obesity--a four-percentage-point increase up to 27.4% in 2014. Adults age 45 to 64 followed in the second highest increase.

Not surprisingly, I’m asked by older adults about special guidelines for an older person to have bariatric surgery. Studies have found that age does not appear to significantly increase the risks associated with having weight loss surgery. Compared to younger and middle-aged adults, older adults also did not appear to be at any significant increased risk of having major adverse events--like heart attacks, strokes and serious infections--after their bariatric procedures.

Criteria for bariatic surgery over age 60

There are four common denominators that apply to people over age 60:

1.  Your BMI is over 35 and/or are your health is compromised by obesity-related medical conditions such as heart disease, diabetes, sleep apnea or high blood pressure.
2.  You do not have additional existing health conditions that would prohibit you from enduring a long procedure under full anesthesia.
3.  You have been unable to achieve a healthy weight after several serious efforts.
4.  You are (generally) under the age of 70 or, if older, have special medical circumstances where weight loss surgery could help control or lessen the condition (determined on a case-by-case basis).

The payoff - How older people benefit from weight loss surgery

Adults over age 60 can markedly improve their overall health by losing significant amounts of weight, particularly those who are 100 pounds or more overweight. Over time, this excess weight has a negative effect on one’s health—to the point that it diminishes the patient’s normal body function due to excess “wear and tear” from the weight.

But once that weight is “lifted,” grandparents can comfortably fly on an airplane to visit family or just enjoy a ride at an amusement park with a grandchild. My older bariatric patients also typically report a huge boost in energy, more willingness to travel and try new activities and a renewed social life.

In addition, they can lengthen their life spans by minimizing the effects of serious diseases related to advanced age and obesity such as diabetes, heart disease, high blood pressure, sleep apnea, joint pain and mobility issues. By losing the extra weight, seniors are setting the right example for their own children or grandchildren (who learn visually and cognitively) who may be facing obesity issues.

Weight loss surgery proven to lengthen lifespan

Bariatric surgery does more than help obese older people and seniors shed pounds. The Journal of the American Medical Association announced in a recent study that it helps them live longer, too. Researchers compared 2,500 obese patients who had weight loss surgery to about 7,500 obese patients who did not. The researchers gauged their results over a 14-year span. Patients who had weight loss surgery had a mean body mass index (BMI) of 47 and a mean age of 52. Compared to those who did not have the procedure, obese patients who had weight loss surgery--gastric bypass, sleeve gastrectomy, adjustable gastric banding, and other bariatric procedures--had a whopping 53 percent lower risk of dying from any cause five to 14 years after the surgery.

For those of us who work in bariatrics, the results of this study were no surprise. Think about the people you may know who passed away before their time and were very overweight at the time of their deaths.

If you are considering bariatric surgery and over age 60

If you are older and still battling obesity and weight-related health problems, it is not too late to seek surgical treatment to improve your health and even lengthen your lifespan.

Where do you start?

1.  First talk with your personal physician about your BMI and any existing health issues that might affect your ability to undergo surgery. If your doctor supports a surgical weight loss solution for you, research bariatric physicians who have performed the operation on older patients with a high success rate.
2.  Ask your doctor for surgeon recommendations. If the surgeon offers a public seminar or new patient event at your local hospital, bring along a trusted companion and attend. Ask questions and see if the bariatric surgeon’s philosophy is in line with your own. If not, keep looking
3.  Check with your medical insurance company to determine your bariatric coverage and be ready to work with your surgeon to provide any special medical tests or documentation they may require.
4.  Finally, ask your local hospital if they offer a bariatric support group. Attend a meeting to listen to people, especially in your age range, who have already undergone the procedure. Chat with members about their experiences and ask questions.

It’s never too late for a new beginning, regardless of your age. For many older adults, weight loss surgery can be a ticket to an improved quality of life--in a surprisingly short period of time.



Dr. Ayotunde Adeyeri is a New Jersey board certified, fellowship-trained, advanced laparoscopic, bariatric and general surgeon. He is the Medical Director of Sterling Surgicare in Holmdel, NJ, and Co-Medical Director of Central Jersey Bariatrics in Freehold. He specializes in performing a wide range of bariatric procedures including RNY gastric bypass, sleeve gastrectomy, duodenal switch (DS), gastric banding and revision bariatric surgery.

Read more articles by Dr. Adeyeri!