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Studies: Weight loss surgery boosts survival rate

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As the waist lines of Americans grow, so does the interest in surgically-induced weight loss. Lap-Band surgery is one of the most common types of procedures.

Researchers discovered long ago that bariatric surgery can improve obesity-related health problems, but two recent studies show stomach-stapling and other gastric procedures can lower an obese person's risk of dying during the next decade by nearly 40 percent.

After the birth of her first son, then Nicki Jackson, 25, weighed more than 320 pounds.

"I had my son to chase after and i was just so tired of being heavy and tired," said Jackson.

In October 2002, Jackson became the first patient at St. David's Medical Center to get a gastric Lap-Band. Nearly five years later, she's lost 150 pounds, and is down to 170 pounds.

"Literally, you physically cannot overeat. You eat a small amount, a half a cup, and you feel full," said Jackson.

According to two recent studies, surgical weight loss procedures not only lead to lasting weight loss, but can also dramatically improve survival rates. Obese people who had surgery had a 30 to 40 percent lower risk of dying during the following decade than those who did not have surgery.

"We've seen those results in our own patients for many years," said bariatric surgeon, Tim Faulkenberry. He says one reason is surgery often improves obesity-related health conditions.

"A huge majority of the diabetic patients, for instance, require much less, if no medicine after bariatric surgery and their heart conditions, their high blood pressure problems improve, their overall ability to do day-to-day activities improves, their quality of life is improved," said Dr. Faulkenberry.

"I would do it again over and over and over," said Jackson. She's now a mother of two and says the surgery was well worth it.

"You can help yourself. It's so easy and it's a tool and you can be so much more healthy and happy," said Jackson.

A few years after Jackson got her lap band, her mother and father did the same. Collectively, they've lost more than 400 pounds.

Researchers say the findings could cause insurance companies to rethink who should qualify for such surgeries.

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