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Special Report: Extreme Weight Loss

Studies show the average person undergoing gastric bypass surgery is around 40 years old.  But how old is too old for the surgery?

As News 13's Jay Siltzer explains in this special "Health Alert", there's no easy answer especially when the procedure adds years to your life.

Carolyn Smith with the help of gastric bypass has gone from a size 26 to a 10 to in 4 years, losing 175 pounds.

At her heaviest, the retired teacher and education advocate weighed 308 pounds.

Dr. Chris Edwards, Regional Surgical Specialists, "I thoroughly believe Ms. Smith might not be here today if she was a 68 year old woman like she is now with the weight like it was."

Carolyn Smith, patient, "I had high blood pressure. My cholesterol level was not under control, and I had sleep apnea."

Dr. Chris Edwards, "I felt she was a great candidate for surgery. She had a list of medical problems we knew the surgery would eliminate."

Also fed up with being self conscious and tired, Carolyn opted for gastric bypass in spite of her age and increased risks.

She was surprised insurance paid the bill.  Carolyn, "if i known it was something available to the common person, not just famous rich people, I might have looked into it a lot sooner."

Dr. Edwards, "what we've found over time is that these surgeries we do aren't just restricting what people eat, but are actually changing the hormonal balance within their bodies."

Add in exercise to improve posture and balance and suddenly, you have a new person, physically and emotionally.

Carolyn, "I have no regrets... I'd do it again if need be."  Dr. Edwards, "I think it's one of the most amazing things we do as a medical society is give someone their life back."

Before surgery, Carolyn says it was unpleasant to go to the movies because she couldn't fit in the seat.  Now, everything is more comfortable and rewarding, including outpacing her husband while hiking.


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