Doctor Discusses Factors Contributing to Diabetes

Posted: Updated: Mar 28, 2016 11:17 PM

MCALLEN — One in four people in the Rio Grande Valley have diabetes. Factors that contribute to the chronic disease may have a lot to do with a person’s culture and economic situation.

Dr. Enrique Griego has more than 25,000 patients across the Valley. Most of those patients are diabetic.

Griego’s patients are getting younger and younger every year.

“The new generation in this community, they have family history of diabetes from both sides of the family,” he said. “They are growing with obesity. Most of these patients that we see younger than 30 years old, they were born with obesity.”

Dr. Griego said the factors that contribute to the disease in the Valley have a lot to do with culture and the economy.

Alejandro Leal admits that a culture that revolves around food is a problem.

“We have in our culture, the Mexican culture, the more the better,” he said. “Of course, you make it, you eat and you end up eating more than you're supposed to.”

Leal was diagnosed with Type 2 diabetes when he was 35. He said he didn’t take care of his body, even immediately after his diagnosis.

“You have to own the problem,” he said. “And the problem was that I was banking on, ‘Okay, they're going to give me something that's going to help me and my diabetes.’”

Leal didn’t change his diet and exercise routine until he lost part of a toe. He said his diabetic grandmother didn’t take care of herself either.

“She was a famous eater,” Leal said. “I remember, she drank about six Cokes, at that time. The bottled drinks, she drank about six a day. She liked Mexican bread, which is bad. That would be her breakfast, lunch and supper.”

Dr. Griego said the other huge factor that’s contributing to the diabetes epidemic in the Valley is poverty.

“People have to work very hard sometimes, in order for them to be able to survive,” Griego said. “They have to two or three jobs. When that happens, they really don't have time to exercise, no energy to exercise. They don't have time to cook at home.”

Alejandro Leal said he had to retire at 52 from his teaching job. Problems in his feet, eyes, hands and kidneys kept him from working.

“Most of the medications, you've got to pay,” Leal said. “They're not going to give it to you for free. It's a matter of adjusting. Right now, I live strictly on a budget, my retirement from teaching.”

Dr. Griego said the lack of education on the issue is a big factor that leads people to get diabetes.

“If you don't have that knowledge of how to spend your money to buy the food that really has the nutrients that you need, you will be eating things that are not good for you,” Griego said. “And that's what we see around here.”

Leal and Griego agree diabetes needs to be talked about to save future generations from a life of complications.

Count on CHANNEL 5 NEWS to bring our viewers the very latest in diabetes coverage. For more information, visit our Heart of the Valley page.

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