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Allergan, the manufacturer of a popular device used for gastric banding, the LAP-BAND® System, recently announced that the U.S. Food and Drug Administration has approved expanded use of the device. Formerly, patients with a body mass index (BMI) of 40+, or those with a BMI of 35 with associated medical problems were considered candidates for the procedure. The new approval lowers the BMI threshold to 30 for those with additional medical conditions.
According to Allergan’s press release, 37 million Americans (more than 10 percent of the total U.S. population) have a BMI between 30 and 40. Allergan also referred to research by doctors Jia Haomiao and Erica Lubetkin, published in the American Journal of Preventive Medicine, noting that obesity has become “an equal, if not greater, contributor to the burden of disease than smoking,” in the United States. In other words, obesity now counts for at least as many preventable deaths in this country as smoking.
But what does this mean to you? If you weigh more than you want to, are you a possible candidate for gastric banding? Should you consider it?
The first step is to find out your BMI if you don’t already know it. There’s a particularly good calculator on the National Institutes of Health website: http://www.nhlbisupport.com/bmi/. It will tell you if you are considered obese or simply overweight. If you’re 5’ 5”, for instance, you’re overweight at 150 (BMI of 25) and obese at 180 (BMI of 30).
Let’s say you are 5’5” tall and weigh 180. The second step is to consider your dieting history. Have you truly tried a sustained program of healthy eating and exercise, yet failed to lose weight and keep it off? This is a sign you may be a candidate. Most doctors will insist on this criterion and tell you that gastric banding is not something to choose lightly. The decision will definitely have an impact on your life.
Next, if you have a BMI between 30 and 40, a medical problem associated with obesity--referred to as a “comorbid condition"--will need to be present for you to be a candidate. This could be type 2 diabetes, high blood pressure, sleep apnea or a few others.