I applaud New Jersey Governor Chris Christie’s announcement that he has undergone lap band surgery to help manage his weight. As a public figure and politician, Governor Christie is uniquely positioned to help champion obesity awareness, and to spread the message that bariatric surgery is not the easy way out for patients who struggle with weight.
“It’s not a career issue for me,” said Christie. “It is a long-term health issue for me and that’s the basis on which I made this decision. It’s not about anything other than that.”
Several studies have shown that patients with a body mass index (BMI) over 40, or BMI >35 with a major medical problem associated with weight (diabetes, high blood pressure, sleep apnea, heart disease) have a significantly reduced life expectancy. One study shows that patients meeting the above criteria have only a 30% chance of living beyond age 65.
Bariatric surgery has not only been shown to help patients lose significant weight, but many patients have complete resolution of their medical problems, including diabetes, following the procedures. Bariatric surgery has even been shown to reduce the risks of colon and breast cancer.
Surgery is not the easy way out. It is a tool to help patients reach their weight loss goals, to prolong their lives, and to help improve quality of life.
According to the U.S. Food and Drug Administration, obesity is the second-leading cause of preventable death in the United States, after smoking. I not only appreciate Governor Christie’s willingness to share his story as a public health issue, but I empathize with the fact that his weight has been such a topic of public discussion.