9 February 2021
Dr Amit Garg, while interacting with media persons here in Chandigarh explained why obesity should not be taken lightly. He Shared, “Recent studies show that Obesity has been seen to be an independent risk factor for severe Covid-19 infection, even if the patient does not have any other disease. Individuals with uncontrolled diabetes and sleep apnea with high body weight have been especially at risk of respiratory complications leading to more morbidity and mortality”. Dr. Amit Garg has further added that Covid-19 has been especially leading to complications in patients who are having Body Mass Index (BMI) more than 30. Recent evidence has shown that obesity weakens the immune system and therefore, making the host vulnerable to infectious diseases. Indeed, Obesity has emerged as a strong risk factor for severe disease in the current pandemic disease, COVID-19. Several independent studies have demonstrated that obese patients with COVID-19 have a higher risk of severe disease, hospitalization, and increased probability of death.
The COVID‐19 pandemic challenges all countries enormously. Our systems, institutions, health and welfare will feel the impacts for many years. The high prevalence of individuals with obesity exacerbates the threat to everyone’s health, and the economic, social distancing and stay‐at‐home components compound the impacts. We will need creative solutions quickly to prevent undesirable dietary patterns and promote healthy eating, which is so critical to our future health and for building resilience against future threats.
He said that, “Obesity is a complex disease that can impact the physical, mental and socio-economic well-being of the individual. Despite the consequences of leaving obesity untreated, obese patients do not always consult a medical professional. Dr Garg observed that, “In the Indian scenario, more than 60% of individuals wait more than 6-10years to seek out medically sound weight-loss procedures. Usually such patients are diagnosed with two or more co morbidities, such as diabetes. In my practice, I have observed a rapid rise in the incidence of infertility, depression, NAFLD, kidney failure, cancers, sleep apnea and heart attacks in obese patients.”
Dr Garg explained that, “When obesity is treated effectively, many co morbid diseases also show improvement. For instance, bariatric surgery is proven to help control Type 2 Diabetes in obese patients and other co morbidities, which helps reduce mortality. Dr Amit Garg emphasized that compliance to weigh loss maintenance program and follow up visits to doctors are essential for continued success after bariatric surgery”
Dr Garg pointed out that patients can proactively consult a physician to understand whether they are eligible for bariatric surgery – before problems develop, “Most patients seek bariatric consultation when they develop Type 2 diabetes, sleep apnea or when they are refused a knee replacement surgery by an orthopaedician. But with increasing awareness about the role bariatric surgery can play in controlling obesity and diabetes, patients can proactively seek medical advice before their conditions worsen. Once there is a steady and uncontrolled weight gain, it is best to consult a medical expert who can help identify the cause and advise corrective measures.”
Dr Garg emphasized that, “In my experience, many patients avoid seeking obesity treatment due to financial concerns. He also informed that Insurance also now treats obesity treatment as per medical advice for morbidly obese. Though there is rampant misinformation about obesity treatment but Right/Scientific Therapy for the appropriate patient- Surgery is a viable option for 40+ BMI and 35+ BMI with co morbidities – Insurance will cover medically advised treatment as per new IRDAI regulation and all policies will have to comply from October 2020 onwards.
The central government’s health scheme has been offering reimbursement to patients for bariatric surgery since November 2013. IRDA in a statement confirmed that all state-owned and private insurers in India have to cover weight loss surgery to first time customers buying health insurance policies after October 1, 2019 and for all the existing customers from October 1, 2020.
To cover bariatric surgery costs by your health insurer, all of the following conditions must be satisfied:
· The surgery needs to be backed up by all medical and diagnostic testing.
· Your treating physician must recommend surgery.
· The insured person who undergoes surgery must be at least 18 years of age.
· BMI should be > = 40
· BMI >= 35, and suffering from obese-related comorbid conditions such as coronary heart disease, sleep apnea, uncontrollable type-2 diabetes, and liver diseases etc.
At the press conference many patients who have undergone bariatric/ metabolic surgery shared their stories.
Rajan Jain, 58yrs old Business Man from Chandigarh, who got Metabolic Surgery shared, ‘ I had a history of high blood pressure, Type 2 Diabetes, Reflux problem and severe sleep apnea. I was taking around 9-10 tablets a day for various health issues. Post bariatric surgery, I am now off all my medicines. I lost around 30 kgs in 10 months and now leading a very active life.”
Another patient, Vandana Sharma, 54yr old shared,” Being obese with 151 kgs (BMI 70 Kg/m2), I was not able to walk even small distances. I had severe sleep apnea and could not sleep lying on the bed. I used to sleep on the sofa in the sitting position. My life has transformed post bariatric surgery, my sleep apnea and bp problem resolved within a few weeks after the surgery. I lost 74 kgs in one year and leading a perfectly normal and active life now.
Raminder Bassi, 40 yrs old, who lost around 37 kgs in 6 months shared, “Being morbid obese my life was very difficult and had issues like Type 2 Diabetes, Hypertension, Sleep Apnea and Depression. Now after surgery, life has become better. All my medical test reports are now normal and I am off all medicines too. I feel very energetic and happy”
Sukhmanpreet Singh, 25 yrs old shared,“At 208 Kgs I was unable to carry my own weight. Tried losing weight through diet and exercise but got knee injury. I was suffering from high cholesterol, and severe sleep apnea. Bariatric Surgery saved my life. I got surgery done on 3rd Nov 2020 through cashless insurance. I lost 33 kgs in 3 months. I am confident that soon I will reach my healthy weight.”