An epidemic is raging in our state: the obesity epidemic. Across South Dakota, the number of overweight and obese individuals is rapidly increasing. In the Mount Rushmore State almost 63% of adults are overweight or obese.

This epidemic is costing South Dakotans more than just their health – it’s costing them money. According to recent data from the U.S. Public Health Service Centers for Disease Control (CDC), the cost to the taxpayer for obesity-related expenditures in our state amounts to over $195 million annually.

And of course the costs of obesity are not limited to dollars and cents. People die from obesity (and related illnesses called co-morbidities) every day. Thousands of South Dakotans with diabetes, cancer, heart conditions, and hypertension suffer as a result these obesity-related illnesses. 

Obesity Defined

A person who is significantly above their healthy weight is said to be obese.
  Healthy weight is calculated in terms of individual body mass index (BMI), but actuarial tables generated from insurance industry statistics are used to determine the actual healthy weight in pounds for persons of various ages, builds, and heights. Your doctor can go over these data with you to determine if you are obese, clinically overweight, or at a healthy weight.

Many of those suffering from obesity have tried everything to lose weight – celebrity diets, brutal exercise regimens, even those snake-oil “medicines” advertised on late-night TV. Some who have tried these methods have lost weight, true, but many others have accomplished nothing other than ruining their health.

Gimmicks are not a safe weight loss option. The only safe way to lose weight is to eat less and become more physically active. Medically-supervised diet and lifestyle modification programs are the ideal way to do this. For some, however, education, counseling, support, and willpower are not enough. Weight loss surgery stands as their weapon of last resort in the war against obesity.

The Surgical Option

When all else fails, doctors can counter a patient’s obesity by physically limiting the amount of food – and thus calories – that he or she can consume. Surgical weight loss – also known as bariatric surgery — has been proven to help ease (and in some cases completely resolve) obesity-related health problems, as well as lessening their chances of developing weight-related health problems in the future. The procedures (there are three types) are performed under general anesthesia, most laparoscopically.

Making the decision

Weight loss surgery is not a cure-all for being fat. Patients must be prepared for a complete change in lifestyle for the surgery to have the desired long-term effect. Those patients who fail to follow postoperative instructions may regain any weight lost. These operations also involve certain risks, which include infection, nutritional deficiencies, ulcers, hernias, and gallstones. Obese patients should always consult with their physician before making any decision regarding surgical weight loss.

Considering Surgical Weight Loss

We South Dakotans are an individualistic people. Each of us must seek our own best method of staying at a healthy weight. For some, weight loss surgery is that method. We should each consider all the options, and then make an informed decision about our own strategy in the war on obesity in South Dakota.

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