Obesity has become an epidemic in the US during the last decades and transplant patients are not immune from that issue. This major health problem shortens the life of many Americans (Canadians too) due to its complications. If you are an organ transplant patient, you are playing with fire. According to the World Health Organization (WHO) website, overweight and obesity are defined as abnormal or excessive fat accumulation that may impair health. More precisely overweight is described as having a BMI of more than 25 and you are considered obese if your Body Mass Index is above 30. BMI is defined as a person’s weight in kilograms divided by the square of his height in meters (kg/m2). For all the patients needing an organ transplant, most transplant centers will not consider you if your BMI is over 35 and some even have a cut off of 32.
Quick Facts about Overweight and Obesity
- Fifth leading risk for global deaths
- 2.8 million adults die each year from being obese or overweight
- Higher risk for diabetes
- Higher risk for heart disease
- Higher risk for cancer
Risk for Transplant Recipients
As a transplant recipient you are already at risk for developing diabetes with the use of transplant drugs. By adding some extra pounds, diabetes will not be a risk anymore, it will be reality. Diabetes increases your risk of infection, increase your risk of kidney disease along with heart disease. If you are a kidney transplant patient you really don’t need this problem. Diabetes causes nerves problems (neuropathy) in the long run just like prednisone does, which most of the patients are taking. So you risk are doubled!
One of the side effects of organ transplantation induced by the medication is hypertension (high blood pressure). Obesity is also an important risk factor for hypertension. Long term hypertension could cause kidney disease and potentially send a renal transplant patient back on dialysis. Strokes are also a major complication of uncontrolled high blood pressure. Most of the deceased organ donors die of stroke due to hypertension.
Osteoporosis is a condition where the bones are losing important minerals and getting thinner. Once again, feels like I am repeating myself here but it is what it is, the organ transplant medication regimen by itself causes osteoporosis. Being obese and sedentary will accelerate the process and make you prone to bone fractures.
How to Prevent
It is funny when we are seeing patients in clinic and they gained 30 pounds within the last 6 months. The doctor asked them to lose weight and they look at him and say something like: Doctor, I have tried everything to lose weight, I don’t understand. Then later you see the same patient with a sugary drink. It is my opinion that transplant centers should do a better of educating patients by hiring more dietitians and offering mandatory diet classes. Everybody would win from that. The patient would be healthier and preserve the life of their new organ. The transplant centers would have better stats by keeping its patients alive longer. The end results would be more people getting transplantation because of less organ failure, especially with kidneys. Let’s eat less and move more!