Frequent heartburn and acid reflux not only is a painful state to be in for a person, but chronic GERD can lead to esophageal cancer! Learn how heartburn may be much more serious than you believe with Dr. Chaudhry, surgeon with Previty Clinic for Surgical Care and Medical director of Bariatric surgery at Bay Area Regional Medical Center on The Senior Answer
Dr Chaudhry says that “Gastroesophageal Reflux Disease, or GERD, can be a debilitating condition for those suffering from it. A condition known as Barrett’s esophagus can develop over time in 10-15% of people with GERD as the lining of the esophagus is damaged from long-standing GERD. It has been shown that 1 in 200 people with Barrett’s esophagus develop adenocarcinoma of the esophagus, which is an aggressive malignant cancer. Thus, it is extremely important to get control of GERD before its too late.
Multiple risk factors are associated with GERD, such as smoking, alcohol use, certain type of foods, and caffeine. But one risk factor many people may have not thought of is weight. In some reports, the incidence of GERD in high weight individuals is as high as 72%! Obesity, defined as having a body mass index (BMI) of 30 kg/m2, is directly related to diabetes, high blood pressure, high cholesterol, and obstructive sleep apnea amongst many other diseases. Women who have a BMI of 35 or more have been shown to have a six-fold increase in heartburn symptoms compared to non-obese women.
Many patients require surgery for their chronic GERD, to help alleviate the symptoms and prevent cancer progression. What is important to note, though, is that the classic anti-reflux operations (Nissen fundoplication, hiatal hernia repairs) for GERD patients who are obese may fail. Data reports that recurrence of GERD symptoms is seven times higher in obese patients who underwent Nissen fundoplication surgery compared to non-obese patients who had the same operation.
Surgeons and physicians need to address one of the root causes of GERD, and that is obesity itself. On the other hand, those patients with GERD who undergo anti-obesity surgery (such as the laparoscopic gastric bypass) have a much more favorable response. In fact, 72-98% of patients will see a resolution of GERD after weight loss surgery!
Weight loss surgery has consistently been shown to be the most effective treatment for obesity for people with a BMI of 40 or higher. Not only does surgery resolve GERD, diabetes, and high blood pressure, obesity surgery has been shown to decrease overall mortality by 50% in long-term studies compared to obese people who did not choose to undergo surgery. Get control of your weight and take control of GERD. You will live a much healthier and happier life.”