Beth Elkins struggled with her weight for years. She'd lose, then gain -- and lose, and then gain again. But two years ago, at age 43, she was diagnosed with type 2 diabetes -- and that changed everything.
"For me, having type 2 diabetes and having the problem with weight that goes along with it -- it took 20 years off my life. I'm a prime candidate for having a stroke," Elkins said.
So she researched another tool -- surgery. After months of preparation and education, Elkins underwent bariatric surgery in January. There are three types -- gastric bypass, the lap band and the sleeve gastrectomy. She chose the latter.
Today, Elkins is down 50 pounds in four months, with another 50 to reach her goal. But the best news for her -- the diabetes is in full remission, meaning she's off of the two medications she'd been taking daily.
"To make this decision was not one I entered into lightly, but I wanted to change my life. I wanted to take control of it," Elkins said.
And with careful lifestyle changes, the odds are in her favor to remain in remission -- perhaps permanently. A new study out of the Cleveland Clinic shows 50-percent of those patients with type 2 diabetes who underwent bariatric surgery remained in either complete or partial remission six years later. That's welcome news, but not surprising to doctors who specialize in the endocrine system.
"I've actually seen a couple of studies, one in particular from Sweden, that showed even higher success rates. I think it sort of depends on the population you start with, so how sick was your population to being with because obviously if you perform surgery on a healthy population you might get really robust results," said Dr. Annis Marney, a Fletcher Allen Endocronologist.
Elkins is one of Marney's success stories. She says the numbers are gratifying, but seeing patients who are happy about their life is even better. As for Elkins: "Would I do it again? I wish I had done it 10 years ago to be truthful," she said.
She wishes she'd been tested for diabetes much sooner, and received the wake up call she needed to change her life.
Doctors say it's important to weigh the risks and benefits for each patient considering bariatric surgery, but for most, it appears beneficial.
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