YMCA to start diabetes prevention program

Laura Garcia By Laura Garcia

Feb. 9, 2018 at 9:42 p.m.
Updated Feb. 10, 2018 at 6 a.m.

Rosalinda Ramirez, the wellness director at the Barbara Bauer Briggs Family YMCA, leads a Body Pump class.

Rosalinda Ramirez, the wellness director at the Barbara Bauer Briggs Family YMCA, leads a Body Pump class.   Angela Piazza for The Victoria Advocate

Rosalinda Ramirez tried to start a new diabetes prevention program in Victoria a couple of months ago, but no one signed up.

"It was the last thing on anybody's mind," she said about the program, which would have started just after Hurricane Harvey.

But those who have taken fitness classes at the YMCA know Ramirez doesn't make excuses.

The 54-year-old wellness director at the Barbara Bauer Briggs Family YMCA has for the past 20 years pushed members to be healthier and stronger.

She plans to start the program March 27 and is accepting participants for the yearlong evidence-based course.

The number of residents diagnosed with diabetes in Victoria has grown over the years, with almost 11 percent of the population living with disease.

Another troubling statistic is that almost 35 percent of residents in the county are obese, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Being overweight or obese increases the chances of developing the common type of diabetes, Type 2, in which the body cannot use insulin to properly control blood sugar levels.

"Most people, once they get diabetes, they are put on medication and there's no turning back," she said.

That's why this program is tailored to adults who are overweight and diagnosed with prediabetes.

The goals are to reduce body weight and increase physical activity.

The $429 yearlong program may even be covered by a participant's health insurance policy.

Ramirez and fellow YMCA of the Golden Crescent employee Susanna Palacios underwent specialized training to teach the course, which is based on CDC-approved curriculum.

The program features 25 sessions and offers participants motivation and support as they learn how to make small, measurable changes.

They can work with area employers to offer classes on-site and can also teach a class for Spanish speakers.

Dr. Sidney C. Ontai said diabetes is an epidemic, especially in South Texas, but programs like this one can help.

"Type 2 is almost entirely due to lifestyle, specifically diet," he said. "It used to take a lifetime of abuse for people to get diabetes in their 40s and 50s. Now children are getting diabetes."

Ontai is the program director of DeTar Family Medicine Residency, a collaboration with Texas A&M University.

In South Texas, 20 percent of residents have diabetes and 73 percent are at risk for developing it.

"The standard American diet has become far too rich, and our bodies are not designed for that," he said.

Ontai said having high blood sugar is bad for all the systems of the body and is the No. 1 cause of blindness among working-age adults.

The Victoria physician has had patients in their 30s who died of heart attacks because the condition accelerated hardening of their arteries.

Diabetes can also lead to amputations and terrible nerve problems, he said.

"It's really not something you want to have," he said.

Ontai said medications help control symptoms and blood sugars to slow the disease down a little bit but certainly don't cure it.

He said what a lot of people don't know is lifestyle and diet can cure it, especially when it is caught early.

Ramirez said she first got interested in fitness in her late 20s because she struggled with her weight.

"Everybody thinks it's so hard, but it really isn't," she said. "It's just a matter of how you can shift things on your plate."

Now she follows a plant-based diet and is careful to choose foods that are good for her body.

"Everything is controlled by diet," she said. "Most people don't realize what they are doing to their bodies."


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