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Research Shows Positive Heart Shape Changes After Bariatric Surgery

illustration of human heart highlighted in body

Obesity is one of the leading causes of cardiovascular disease worldwide; the extra weight an obese person carries puts added pressure on the heart, lungs and arteries as the body struggles to circulate blood effectively.

Additionally, blocked arteries put obese patients at a higher risk for heart attack and stroke. Now more than any other time, morbidly obese patients are undergoing bariatric surgery like the lap band in increasing numbers, in an effort to lose weight and improve their health profile, including heart health.

Obesity And Heart Defects

Obesity causes significant changes to the heart, especially a type of obesity that scientists call “apple-shaped obesity.” Apple-shaped obesity occurs when a person carries most of her or his excess weight around the middle section of the body—the abdomen and chest. This type of obesity has been linked to a patient having a higher risk of developing diabetes, or suffering from heart failure.

The research “Changes In Body-Surface Electrocardiograms From Geometric Remodeling Due To Obesity,” published in the International Journal of Bioelectromagnetism explains that obesity causes physical changes to the heart, not only changes in how well the heart is able to function, or the way the arteries allow blood to flow through them.

In an obese person, the heart will change position, both in terms of where it is in the body and how it is oriented; the left ventricle walls will become thicker, and the abdomen will stretch and be able to hold more fluid and material. All of these characteristics, especially the first two, increase patients’ risks for heart failure.

Bariatric Surgery And Heart Changes

Surgeons and cardiologists have discovered that bariatric surgery, especially gastric bypass, has the ability to change the detrimental heart defects caused by obesity, and return the heart to a more normal shape and size. Researchers at the Medical College of Georgia completed a study that included 400 obese people who had undergone bariatric surgery, and 300 obese people who did not.

According to USA Today, this research team found that the patients lost an average of 100 pounds after their gastric bypass surgery, their blood pressure and heart rate decreased and they had lower cholesterol. These changes have been noted in earlier studies of weight loss, both through bariatric surgery and diet and behavioral changes. The researchers also discovered that the thickness of the ventricle wall decreased in the patients who had undergone bariatric surgery.

One of the major problems with obesity is the additional health problems caused by the condition. As a result of thickened ventricle walls and extra stress in providing adequate circulation, heart failure is a leading cause of death in the obese population.

This study has shown that in addition to lowering blood pressure, blood sugar levels and increasing insulin responsiveness, gastric bypass surgery also has the ability to physically change the shape and function of internal organs. These changes cause less stress on the body, and improve the patient’s overall health.

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