by Morgan Montalvo
With diabetes – and diabetic amputation – rates in San Antonio about three times the statewide average, one local vascular surgeon says now, not New Year’s Eve 2019, is the time to resolve to eat healthier and exercise, News Radio 1200 WOAI reports.
Dr. Lyssa Ochoa, who runs the SAVE Clinic on San Antonio’s southeast side says, for diabetics and pre-diabetics, lifestyle management should be an ongoing priority.
“Not only around the holidays,” Ochoa says, “but every time of year, we have people with uncontrolled diabetes and they have complications, such as failing kidneys needing dialysis, such as people with bad circulation ending up having amputations, people have heart attacks strokes and death.”
Ochoa and her staff have identified and published local zip codes that report the highest incidences of diabetes and diabetes-related complications: blindness, amputations, organ failure, heart disease and strokes.
Those zip codes overwhelmingly are on San Antonio’s southeast, south and west sides.
“These areas in our communities, we have a population that is dying earlier, dying younger, up to 20 years younger, than patients on the north side,” Ochoa says.
She recommends immediate, but realistic lifestyle changes, including substituting fresh produce for fatty, processed holiday foods and starting a daily activity program that involves at least 30 minutes of movement, such as walking, working out with hand weights, or a moderate exercise regimen that leads to cardiovascular strength and endurance, as well as a healthy mental outlook.
Ochoa says her colleagues report ever-increasing percentages of overweight children in San Antonio. Obesity is linked to juvenile diabetes.
“Last year I heard that the fastest-growing demographic of obesity is our eight- to ten-year-olds,” says Ochoa. “And so, that is scary to think about, the consequences of that.
“They have seen teenagers having heart attacks from diabetes, and so these kinds of accelerated complications from diabetes, the earlier you get diabetes, it’s scary to think about.”
Unchecked, she says, San Antonio's diabetes epidemic could sideline a large percentage of the local current and future workforce.
"It’s our San Antonio community,” says Ochoa. “How do we expect them to get good jobs, bring industry to the city, if we don’t have our community healthy and able to work?”
Among the positives, Ochoa points to: increased awareness of risk factors and symptoms of diabetes and pre-diabetes; frank conversations between patients and health care providers; work by area non-profits and collaboratives to promote healthy living; and a program that pairs students at the University of the Incarnate Word Medical School with diabetics to provide monitoring and support.
She says self-directed lifestyle changes by more patients will reverse current, dangerous trends.
“I see 2019 as the year of collaboration, where we actually come together with a common goal of trying to make a difference in these health care outcomes,” Ochoa says.