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The average age of a bariatric patient is 42 (AJN, Sept. 2012, Vol 112, 9). 83% of patients are female according to the same study.
Walter is an anomaly. He’s male and had bariatric surgery at age 65. He’s also a great example of perseverance and hope.
Walter decided to live out his golden years eating what he wanted. It was too late for him. He was nearly 400 lbs at his heaviest. He only had a year or two left, he figured.
Then his doctor at the VA told him they had a weight management program and, if he qualified, he may be eligible for weight loss surgery. Walter had no idea the VA offered weight loss surgery coverage. He jumped at the opportunity.
Walter wasn’t sure he would qualify. But as he lost weight in the weight management program, he became motivated to lose more. He wanted to prove that he was a good candidate for weight loss surgery. When the time came, Walter wrote a letter to the surgeon who performs weight loss surgery at the VA. He said that he was willing to take the risk and that he needed this to live out the rest of his life. He was committed to getting healthy. The doctor agreed.
But at his age, his family was strongly against it. The risks were too high, they warned. But Walter wasn’t about to quit.
“I wanted to add years to my life and life to my years.”
Against his family’s protests, Walter had gastric sleeve surgery. He says he didn’t get around so well after surgery but his surgeon told him to expect that. He was sore but the pain medication helped. A few weeks after surgery he was “pretty much back to normal.”
A study published in Obesity Surgery 2010 found the following:
Weight loss surgery is effective in patients >or=65 years of age, producing significant excess weight loss, reduction in daily medication use, and improvement in quality of life. Surgery is also associated with a low mortality rate and an acceptable morbidity profile (low death and complication rate).
Dietary and Exercise Changes
After gastric sleeve surgery, patients have to change their diet. About 80% of the patient’s stomach is removed during surgery. The new stomach can physically not hold more than a few ounces of food at a time. The first 4 to 6 weeks after surgery are typically limited to liquids and soft foods (broth, eggs, cheese).
The weight comes off fast.
As the weight came off, Walter became active. The more he exercised, the more he wanted to exercise.
“Energy feeds energy. The more you exercise the more you want to.”
Walter has lost about 96 lbs since surgery (in 6 months). Walter can expect to continue losing weight for 12 to 18 months.
Over 50 and Considering Surgery?
Walter provides some tips.
- Find a doctor that is understands your need to be healthy and live the rest of your life.
- Do not listen to your family and friends.
- If you have the desire to become healthier and you find someone that is able to get you there. Don’t let anyone talk you out of it.
Walter had weight loss surgery at age 65. He was ready and lucky enough to find a doctor willing to help.
Many bariatric surgeons may not be willing to operate on patients over 60 years old. There are inherent risks for older patients regardless of the procedure. Bariatric surgeons put their reputation on the line every time they perform surgery. A surgeon’s results affect their ability to get new patients. And many surgeons are not willing to take on additional risk to help someone over the age of 60.
So what can we learn from Walter? Don’t give up. Keep searching until you find the right surgeon. And don’t lose hope. You’re never too old to get healthy.