You thought bariatric surgery raised heart attack risk? New study finds it doesn't

The study found that stroke and non-fatal and fatal heart attacks among who had undergone bariatric surgery were 60 percent lower compared to patients who had not

A new study published in the European Heart Journal has found that significantly lower strokes and heart attacks were linked to weight-loss surgery. The study found that stroke and non-fatal and fatal heart attacks among 3,701 men and women who had undergone bariatric surgery were 60 percent lower compared to a similar number of patients who had not been under the knife, during an average of eleven years post the surgery.

"The results, taken together with the wealth of emerging evidence on the benefits of bariatric surgery, focuses not only on weight loss but also on the management and prevention of obesity-related health problems," said study senior author Sanjay Purkayastha.

Heart problem
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Improvement in associated conditions

In addition, the study found that patients who had bariatric surgery lost significantly more weight (an average of over 10 kg more), and type 2 diabetes was more likely to improve to the point where the patients no longer required medication to maintain normal blood sugar levels.

"The results indicated that the rates of heart attacks and strokes were significantly lower in those who underwent bariatric surgery," said study first author Maddalena Ardissino from Imperial College London in the UK.

The study

For the findings, the research team analysed data from the Clinical Practice Research Datalink (CPRD) database, which holds information on over 11 million patients from 674 general practice surgeries in the UK, dating from 1987 to the present.

They extracted data on 3,701 patients who had a body mass index (BMI) of 35 kg/m2 or more, who had not suffered a heart attack or stroke when the study started and who had undergone bariatric surgery. They also looked at a control group of 3,701 patients who matched the first group in age, BMI and gender but who had not had bariatric surgery.

Heart Attack
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They adjusted for factors that could affect the results, such as high levels of cholesterol in the blood, smoking, alcohol and cocaine use, exercise and use of medications, such as statins, beta-blockers and hormone replacement therapy.

Bariatric surgery associated with the reduction of some risks

During follow-up, there were 37 fatal or non-fatal heart attacks or strokes in the bariatric surgery group and 93 in the non-surgery group. "This means that bariatric surgery was associated with a 1.5 percent reduction in the absolute risk of heart attacks or strokes; 62 patients would need to have bariatric surgery to prevent one heart attack or stroke," Ardissino said.

According to the researchers, rates of acute ischaemic stroke were similar across the two groups, though very few events were recorded. The study revealed that there was a 60 percent reduction in new diagnoses of heart failure during follow-up, 22 in the bariatric surgery group and 46 in the control group, and death from any cause was 80 percent lower among patients who had bariatric surgery compared to those who did not: 45 versus 182 deaths respectively.

(With inputs from agencies)

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