New research has shown that having bariatric surgery, by means of having a gastric band placed around the stomach to restrict food intake, may significantly lower one’s chances of having a heart attack.
For the study, researchers at Imperial College London in the UK examined data from the Clinical Practice Research Datalink (CPRD) database. In particular, they selected data from 3,701 patients each with body mass indexes of 35 kg/m2 or more (clinically obese), who had not suffered from a heart attack or stroke when the study began, and who had undergone bariatric surgery. They also selected other 3,701 patients who matched the first group for age, BMI and gender, but who had not undergone bariatric surgery as a control group to understand how the surgery may affect health outcomes.
After analyzing the data, they then adjusted the results for factors including high levels of cholesterol in the blood, alcohol, smoking, usage of cocaine, exercise frequency and usage of other medications such as statins and hormone replacement. Across both groups, the median age was 36, while the median BMI before surgery in the bariatric group was 40.5 whereas it was 40.3 in the other group.
In the end, the researchers found that those who underwent bariatric surgery had a 1.5% reduction in absolute risk of having a heart attack or stroke. Dr Maddalena Ardissino, an author of the study said, “As this was a young group of patients, in whom we would expect to see fewer such events than in older patients, the reduction in the absolute risk has important clinical implications.”
Although rates of ischemic stroke were similar in both groups (both rarely occurring), they also noticed that those in the bariatric group saw a 60% reduction in new diagnoses of heart failure during their followup, as well as an 80% lower all-cause mortality rate. As the study was done in retrospect however, the researchers caution that any conclusions from their study need more rigorous testing.
Regardless, senior author of the study, Mr Sanjay Purkayastha said, “The results of this study... call for a definitive shift in the perception of bariatric surgery, from what used to be seen as a ‘bonus’ or ‘extra’, almost as an aesthetic procedure undergone by only a minority of the eligible population, to a truly disease-preventing and standard of care procedure that should at least be offered sooner rather than later to eligible patients.”