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Type 2 diabetes: Weight-loss surgery may protect the heart

Nov. 6, 2018—If you have type 2 diabetes and are obese, bariatric surgery may help you avoid two of the disease's most serious consequences: heart attack and stroke.

That's according to a study that appears in the journal JAMA.

The study included more than 5,300 adults who had type 2 diabetes and severe obesity. Most of these people had a type of surgery called Roux-en-Y gastric bypass. The others had either a sleeve gastrectomy or a gastric band surgery. They were matched to a control group of nearly 15,000 people. These people also had diabetes but they did not have bariatric surgery.

After five years, the researchers compared the two groups. Among the findings? Those who had bariatric surgery were:

  • 40 percent less likely to have a heart attack or stroke.
  • One-third less likely to be diagnosed with heart disease.
  • Two-thirds less likely to die prematurely from any cause.

Previous studies have found that those who had gastric bypass saw greater health benefits, such as better blood sugar control, than those who had a gastrectomy or gastric band surgery.

Diabetes and heart disease

About 30 million people in the U.S. have type 2 diabetes. Over time, it can lead to blood vessel problems that can trigger heart attack and stroke. Controlling blood sugar, blood pressure and cholesterol helps reduce these complications. Weight loss is also important.

But lifestyle changes and medicines may not always be enough to help people with these goals. For many, bariatric surgery may be an option, the researchers said. They point out that those with a body mass index (BMI) of 35 or more and a weight-related health problem (such as diabetes) may be surgery candidates.

The study does have limitations though. For one, it wasn't designed to prove that bariatric surgery caused the benefits seen in the study. But it is more evidence that the surgery can be a treatment for type 2 diabetes. Previous studies have also shown that the surgery can improve blood sugar levels, reduce the need for medications and even send diabetes into remission for at least several years.

Check out the study's abstract for more on the findings.

Could bariatric surgery be for you?

The study's takeaway: If you have type 2 diabetes and a lot of pounds to shed, you might want to talk with your doctor about bariatric surgery.

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