THURSDAY, Oct. 18, 2012 (HealthDay News) -- Gastric band surgery, and other types of weight-loss operations, can significantly reduce obese people's risk for heart disease and stroke, and also improve the health of the heart itself, researchers report.
These effects are seen in a short period of time, achieving dramatic results more quickly than drugs used for weight control or diabetes, the study authors added. This could mean the difference between life and death, according to the study published online Oct. 17 in the journal Heart.
In conducting the study, Dr. Amanda Vest of the Heart and Vascular Institute at the Cleveland Clinic and colleagues analyzed 73 previous studies on the impact of weight-loss surgery on the heart. The studies they reviewed involved nearly 20,000 people. Three out of four of the participants were women and those examined had an average age of 42 years.
Before weight-loss surgery, 44 percent of the participants had high blood pressure, 24 percent had diabetes and 44 percent had high levels of harmful blood fats, the study authors noted in a journal news release.
In the roughly four and a half years following their weight-loss surgery, the amount of extra weight the patients lost ranged from 16 percent to 87 percent. On average, weight-loss surgery resulted in a 54 percent drop in unwanted pounds, the findings showed.
Meanwhile, weight-loss surgery either eliminated or dramatically reduced risk factors for stroke, heart attack and heart failure in the patients. The researchers found 63 percent saw improvements in their high blood pressure, 73 percent saw improvements in their diabetes and 65 percent saw favorable changes in their levels of unhealthy blood fats.
After examining 18 additional studies involving another 713 people, the investigators also found gastric bypass surgery resulted in considerable improvements in the size of the heart's main pumping chamber, the proportion of blood the heart pumps out with each beat, and the ability of the heart to relax after a contraction.
The findings show that weight-loss surgery is more than a cosmetic procedure and is effective in preventing heart-related problems, the study authors concluded.
"The magnitude of effect on [cardiovascular] risk factors is impressive, and to date, no pharmacological therapy for weight management or diabetes has shown a comparable effect over these short time periods," Vest and colleagues wrote in the report.
The study authors pointed out that obesity and being overweight claims the lives of more than 2.6 million people each year.
The U.S. National Library of Medicine has more about weight-loss surgery.