Q: Will I have loose skin after weight-loss surgery?
Dr. Art Chasen, bariatric surgeon and Maui Memorial Medical Center bariatric medical director, Midpacific Surgical Specialists: While many people choose to have bariatric surgery to lose weight and improve their health, they also sometimes worry about loose skin. Not everyone has loose skin after losing weight, but it does happen in most cases. Skin can lose elasticity with age, and if you were overweight or obese for a long time, your skin might sometimes stay “stretched out” even after you lose the weight.
Of course, some people are self-conscious about the way loose skin looks. But it can also cause health problems. Loose skin can be prone to rashes and yeast infections, and it can also be uncomfortable and lead to back or joint pain.
So what should you do? First, give it some time. Wait at least a year after surgery to see if loose skin bounces back or improves on its own. During this time, take pictures of any rashes or uncomfortable areas that develop around these areas. While surgery is an option to remove excess skin, insurance won’t always pay for it. Documenting any health problems related to your loose skin can improve the chances that the surgery will be covered.
While loose skin happens to some people after weight loss, it’s not inevitable, and there are options for making it better.
Q: Can a genetic test like 23andMe tell me whether I will develop Alzheimer’s disease?
Christine Spencer, Maui County regional coordinator, Alzheimer’s Association: Alzheimer’s is one of the most feared diseases in the U.S., and as such, there is an incredible amount of curiosity and concern about our level of risk. With the recent rise in popularity of at-home genetic testing, many people are looking to these kits to ease their worries.
It is true that some of these at-home health assessments can tell you if you carry APOE-e4, a gene mutation that is associated with an increased risk of developing Alzheimer’s disease. But the fact is that having one or two copies of APOE-e4 only provides very general information about increased Alzheimer’s risk. Having the risk gene present in your test findings doesn’t definitively determine whether or not you’ll develop Alzheimer’s. In fact, there is no single test that can predict with certainty who will develop it. The genetics of Alzheimer’s disease and related dementias (such as frontotemporal dementia, Lewy body dementia, etc.) vary from one disorder to another.
People who are genuinely concerned about their own dementia risk, or the risk of a loved one, based on family history, should consider making lifestyle changes regardless of genetic status. Growing evidence indicates that people can reduce their risk of cognitive decline by adopting key lifestyle habits like exercising regularly, eating healthy for your brain and staying engaged socially.
The best way to reduce anxiety about any health concern is to educate yourself with the facts. Support groups are a reliable resource of education as well as emotional support. The Alzheimer’s Association Aloha Chapter offers a free monthly support group for caregivers and people living with Alzheimer’s or a related dementia. The group meets every third Tuesday of the month in the Nutrition Education Room (in the cafeteria) at Maui Memorial Medical Center from 5:30 to 7 p.m. For questions or to RSVP, contact Christine Spencer at (808) 591-2771, ext. 8235.
* Physicians, providers and administrative staff who practice at Maui Health System hospitals and clinics answer questions from the public in “Healthwise Maui,” which appears on Thursdays. Maui Health System operates Maui Memorial Medical Center, Maui Memorial Medical Center Outpatient Clinic, Kula Hospital & Clinic and Lanai Community Hospital and accepts all patients. To submit a question, go to the website at mauihealthsystem.org/contact.