Weight loss from bariatric surgery improves heart health

Losing weight after being overweight or obese has been shown to have numerous health benefits, but now a new study finds weight loss after bariatric surgery can help the heart.

Research shows that weight loss after bariatric surgery can improve heart shape and function in patients. Photo by Tiago Zr/Shutterstock
Research shows that weight loss after bariatric surgery can improve heart shape and function in patients. Photo by Tiago Zr/Shutterstock

Findings from the new study, which will be presented this week at the American College of Surgeons Clinical Congress 2017, suggest weight loss from bariatric surgery can return the heart to its natural shape and function. Both are altered due to large amounts of belly fat.

Excess body weight causes the heart to have to generate more force in order to pump more blood through the body.

In a previous study, researchers found that women may have a lower risk of heart disease compared to men after weight-loss surgery.

That study of 2,000 patients found that women had a 41 percent reduced risk of heart disease after bariatric surgery, compared to a 35.6 percent in men.

“We know that obesity is the most prevalent disease in the United States. And that the cardiovascular system is significantly affected by this disease process,” Dr. Raul J. Rosenthal, chairman, department of General Surgery at the Cleveland Clinic in Weston, Florida, said in a news release.

“But we wanted to know to what degree the shape of the heart changes in someone who is obese, what the heart looks like in someone after having bariatric surgery and losing weight, and how that change in geometry affects heart functionality.”

For the new study, researchers at Cleveland Clinic analyzed data from 51 obese men and women who had bariatric surgery between 2010 to 2015. The patients had an average body mass index of 40, or roughly 100 pounds overweight, and were an average age of 61.

Preoperative and postoperative echocardiography was taken and assessed to measure the size and geometry of the heart as well as heart function.

Researchers found that one year after surgery there were significant improvements in the patients’ heart shape, including that the size of the ventricles that decreased by 15.7 percent.

“When the size of the chambers gets bigger and the walls of the heart get thicker, the blood flow to the heart is not as good, the functionality of the heart is not as good, and the heart itself doesn’t get enough blood,” Rosenthal said. “The whole body suffers because there is less blood going to your feet and to your toes and to your brain.”

Researchers do not yet know if the duration of obesity has an affect on the chances to restore heart shape and function.

By Amy Wallace