Stomach-shrinking surgery has pros, cons 

Q: I’m 100 pounds overweight, and I’ve never had any luck losing weight. Now I’ve got diabetes. Do you think bariatric surgery is a smart way to go? — Gary F.

A: If you lose 100 pounds, you’ll gain 100 percent in self-confidence and health. You’ll dramatically reduce your risk for heart attack and stroke, normalize your blood sugar, slash cancer risks, ease or prevent osteoarthritis and protect your brain from dementia. But not everyone can do it on his or her own, even with programs and support from friends and family. So we YOU Docs get it that weight-loss surgery is a solution for some. And if right now you are at risk of life-threatening health problems because of your weight, it may be smart to opt for bariatric surgery.

The stomach-shrinking procedure is for men 100 or more pounds overweight, women 80 plus, or people who are less overweight but who also have diabetes, heart disease or sleep apnea. But this is not a “get healthy in an instant” scheme. Afterward, to really get healthy for the long term, you have to change your eating patterns and get up and get moving.

And there are other positives and negatives, too: Some studies indicate that more than 60 percent of folks see their glucose level normalize after surgery, and it often cures sleep apnea, gastric reflux disease and other ailments. But more recent research indicates that only 41 percent of patients who had gastric bypass surgery (also known as Roux-en-Y), and 26 percent who had gastric sleeve resection (surgical removal of part of the stomach), and 7 percent who had adjustable gastric banding, were “cured” of diabetes long term. And any surgery has risks, from anesthesia, infection or unforeseen complications.

If you do opt for surgery — after going through a screening and making sure the doc you choose is a real pro at the procedure — you’ll also need to renovate your life the old-fashioned way, with “YOU On a Diet” food changes and exercise.

You can do this, Gary! Start today by getting a pedometer and a buddy, and committing to walking 10,000 steps a day, no matter what else you decide to do.

Q: At the mall, there’s a teeth-whitening kiosk that offers a $99 bleaching session. Are these setups safe to go to? — Lynda G.

A: A bright smile is pleasing, but you don’t want to end up with a blinding shine like Ross in the “Friends” dental-disaster episode. Or throw your money away on no results at all.

Many quick glows are manned by anyone but a dentist. In fact, they’re so iffy that South Carolina, North Carolina, Oklahoma and other states are trying to regulate the practice. (Arkansas already has banned it.) So here’s what to look out for:

What are they using for bleach, and how strong is it? A 10 percent carbamide peroxide solution is American Dental Association-approved for use in at-home teeth-whitening products; so it’s pretty safe for it to be given to you by a secretary with a second job. (In most, if not all, of these places, the workers don’t actually apply the bleach to your teeth — you do.) But it doesn’t pack a lot of whitening power.

Trained pros should be the only ones to deliver 15 percent to 35 percent hydrogen peroxide. (It’s usually combined with the bleaching powers of a light or laser.) When they use that strength at the mall, without medical oversight, the risks for gum irritation, sensitivity and overbleaching go up. Also, there’s no one to make sure your tooth discoloration doesn’t require dental therapy. Or to handle color differences between your natural teeth and any veneers or caps.

The ideal combo? YOU Docs suggest in-office whitening, then use brush-ons and toothpastes. Repetitive whitening at low concentrations of active ingredients gives longer-lasting results. But don’t do it more than once every two weeks, or you’ll thin tooth enamel. A simple five-minute fluoride treatment before bleaching will allow the teeth to recover fully in two weeks. Smile!

The YOU Docs, Mehmet Oz, host of “The Dr. Oz Show,” and Mike Roizen of the Cleveland Clinic are authors of “YOU: Losing Weight.” To submit questions, go to www.RealAge.com.

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