02/14/2014 at 04:00 PM EST
Rosie O'Donnell announced she had vertical gastric sleeve surgery while addressing a Go Red luncheon, sponsored by the American Heart Association, in Detroit on Friday.
Since having the procedure in July 2013, the comedian has lost 40 lbs., going from 230 lbs. to 190 lbs.
The surgical weight-loss procedure – in which a doctor normally removes about 80 percent of the patient's stomach and creates a small sleeve-shaped stomach the size of a banana – was a necessity for 5' 7" O'Donnell.
"I did it to save my life," says O'Donnell, 51, who suffered a life threatening heart attack
After the health scare, O'Donnell embarked on a lifestyle change and started a healthy diet and exercise plan in hopes to get under 200 lbs. per doctor's orders. She reduced her intake of red meat, carbohydrates and sugar and began taking daily short walks with her wife
O'Donnell, however, was still struggling with her weight after a year of trying to slim down. "She tried to lose weight on her own but it wasn't working," her spokesperson Cindi Berger tells PEOPLE. In addition, she had high blood pressure, high cholesterol and was pre diabetic.
"It was a life saving surgery," says Berger. "But it's only a tool, not a cure."