Should plus-sized clothing require a warning label similar to cigarettes?  Even the Surgeon General has acknowledged that obesity has overtaken smoking as the No. 1 cause of preventable death.  And yet, the FDA is continuing its fight with the tobacco industry to slap graphic warning photos on cigarette boxes.  But the only label inside a pair of women’s size 18 pants is “Lane Bryant.”

Well I’ll let you all debate the warning label topic, but when it comes to plastic surgery, obesity can definitely wreak havoc on your healing process and long-term results.  And yup, technically, you could lose a nipple.

Obesity is the New Smoking
Navy is the new black.  Timex is the new Rolex.  And obesity is the new smoking.

Many patients know about the risks of smoking and plastic surgery.  Smoking significantly increases your risks of wound-healing problems in all types of surgery, but especially with movement and rearrangement of large amounts of skin and soft tissue –  some of the key maneuvers in plastic surgery.

However, recent studies have shown that obese patients have significantly higher complication rates in breast surgery, and I believe that more studies will show that being obese leads to increased complications in other types of plastic surgery.

The Key is Blood Flow
One of the keys to wound healing is blood flow.  If you have great blood flow in a surgical area, then you should heal faster than if you don’t have good blood flow.  Blood flow is related to your blood vessels, of course, but it is also affected by smoking, diabetes, age, and especially by being overweight.

Fatty tissue and being obese can lower your blood flow in certain areas of the body, which increases your risks or complications and slow wound healing.  In other words, when tissue doesn’t get adequate blood flow, it can become infected.  It can be slow to heal.  Or, it  might not be able to heal.  Or, it could die.  i.e. Your nipple could turn black and fall off.

New Studies Show that Obesity Increases Complications
I’m not talking about some remote, freakish, highly-unlikely risk of complications.  I’m basing this scary proclamation on recent studies published in Plastic Surgery journals that have shown a 12 TIMES increased complication rate in obese patients versus normal weight patients.  Twelve times.

We have known for decades that obese patients have an increased risk of slow wound healing in the center of a tummy tuck incision.  That’s the area which has the worst blood flow when we do a tummy tuck.

What To Do
Obviously, the simplest thing to do is to lose weight before any elective procedure.  This should help with blood flow and possibly result in better wound healing after surgery.

When I say the “simplest” thing to do is to lose weight, I don’t mean it will be easy.  It’s not easy.  But it is simple.  Eat less. Move more.

Exercise may also help.  And it certainly won’t hurt.  If your heart is conditioned to pump better and more efficiently after surgery, then hopefully that little “oomph” will help you heal after your procedure.

So, to give yourself the best possible outcome after elective plastic surgery, take the time to get healthy.  Yes, your surgical results will make you feel great and help restore your self esteem, but the pride and satisfaction you’ll feel from accomplishing your weight and fitness goals will truly be the icing on the cake steam on the broccoli.


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