Surgery for weight loss found to decrease risk of heart attack and stroke, study reports

There’s encouraging news for patients who have weight loss surgery: A new study finds the benefits of the procedure include decreased risks of heart attacks and strokes as well as healthier blood sugar levels. More than 200,000 Americans each year undergo bariatric surgery.

Carolyn Auckerman is one of those people. The 57-year-old is now a bundle of energy — that’s a far cry from more than two years ago, when her weight hit 310 pounds. “I got tired very easily, I had sleep apnea, diabetes,” she told “CBS Evening News.”

Then she had gastric bypass surgery, where doctors shrink the size of the stomach so less food can be absorbed. Carolyn has lost 130 pounds and her Type 2 diabetes has disappeared.

Dr. Steven Nissen and colleagues at the Cleveland Clinic wanted to know if bariatric surgery could also prevent the cardiovascular problems associated with diabetes. They followed nearly 2,300 people who had undergone bariatric surgery and compared them to more than 11,000 obese patients with similar symptoms who did not have the surgery.

“What we saw was pretty astonishing,” Dr. Nissen said. “So these people had fewer heart attacks and strokes and kidney failure and heart failure.”

In addition, people who had the surgery were 41% less likely to die from any cause during the study.

“If we can find ways to help people lose weight,” Nissen added, “Then all of these effects of obesity on heart health are potentially reversible.”

© 2019 CBS Interactive Inc. All Rights Reserved.