Being overweight or obese is incredibly detrimental to your health. It makes getting around more difficult and puts you at risk for serious chronic health conditions.

“Being overweight, especially to the level of obesity, increases your risk of heart disease, diabetes and some forms of cancer,” said Jila Kaberi-Otarod, M.D., CNSC, a physician at the Geisinger Center for Nutrition and Weight Management. “It puts additional stress on your bones and joints and can negatively impact your mood, memory, respiratory function and reproductive system.”

While gaining weight can negatively impact your health, losing weight can lower your risk of chronic conditions – losing a little as 5 to 10 percent of body weight can provide significant health benefits to people who are obese. For individuals carrying excess pounds, bariatric surgery may seem like a miracle cure in the battle to lose weight, but that’s not quite the case.

“Just being overweight isn’t enough of a prerequisite for doctors to recommend the procedure for you,” Dr. Otarod said. “Bariatric surgery is a major, life-changing procedure. In order for it to be the right weight loss solution for you, your doctor has to determine that the benefits of the surgery outweigh its risks.”

Here are some of the guidelines you must meet in order to be considered a candidate for bariatric surgery:

  • A body mass index (BMI) of 40 or higher, which indicates extreme obesity
  • A BMI of 35 to 39.9, which is considered obese, coupled with a serious weight-related health condition like high blood pressure, sleep apnea or type 2 diabetes
  • Unsuccessful efforts to lose weight with diet and exercise

However, you may need to meet more than these general guidelines in order to qualify for weight loss surgery.

“In order to be considered for bariatric surgery, most people go through an extensive screening process to not only determine if they’re medically ready to undergo the procedure, but also psychologically ready,” Dr. Otarod said.

If you’re considering bariatric surgery, you’ll likely be evaluated by a team of doctors and healthcare providers, including a doctor, nutritionist or dietician, psychologist and surgeon.

This team will evaluate your eating habits, exercise regimen, stress level, weight trends, diet attempts, and time constraints.

Your medical conditions will also be considered.

“Some health issues can increase the risks associated with surgery and some – such as heart problems, blood clots and kidney stones – may actually be worsened by surgery,” Dr. Otarod said. Your medications, whether you smoke, and how much alcohol you consume will also be evaluated to determine your weight loss surgery eligibility.

Your psychological status is important in determining if weight loss surgery is appropriate for you.

“Mental health conditions such as depression, binge-eating disorder, substance abuse, and anxiety disorders may contribute to obesity or make it more difficult to maintain the health benefits of the surgery,” Dr. Otarod said.

Mental health conditions may not prevent you from having the surgery, but the procedure may be postponed until they’re appropriately treated and managed.

“Since the surgery is just one component of weight loss, your motivation, willingness and ability to follow through with your healthcare providers’ recommendations for diet and exercise will also be assessed before the procedure,” Dr. Otarod said.

Although weight loss surgery can be helpful in kick starting your weight loss journey, it doesn’t guarantee you’ll lose all of your excess weight or keep the weight off long term. Exercise, diet and other lifestyle changes are still a big part of getting to a healthy weight.