SAN ANTONIO — We all want to live a full life and be as healthy as possible to see our kids and grandkids become adults. But for many in San Antonio, average life spans can be as much as 10 to 20 years apart... and it all depends on where you live.
Dr. Bryan Alsip, the chief medical officer for University Health System, says this could be true, and stress could play a big role.
"If you can envision someone living in an area of town that has fewer resources... a lot more stress, and they are not able to take care of themselves, it's obviously going to contribute to worse health outcomes," he said.
You can find out a lot about a person's life expectancy just based on where he or she lives in the San Antonio area. Check out the map...
"If you are socially disadvantaged, you may have less access to healthcare," Alsip said. "You may have less access to grocery stores. You may have less ability to exercise in your neighborhood because it's not safe to do so. It's not just the ability to get to a physician or a primary care provider."
The University of Texas Southwestern Medical Center compiled data from across San Antonio and broke down the zip codes where people live the longest and the shortest.
The study found those who live the longest reside in the northwest part of the city, specifically in zip code 78254. Neighbors there have an average life span of 89.2 years, with women living an average of close to 93 years, and men about 84 years.
On the flip side, one of the zip codes where people have the shortest lives is 78202, where the average person lives just over 71 years. Women in that zip code have an average life span of 75.6 years, while men average just over 67 years of age.
So we wanted to talk with area residents from the two extremes in the longevity data:
- On the northwest side where lifespans are longest, we talked with Julie Stevens, who works from home and has lived in Helotes for 11 years.
- On the city's east side, we talked with St. Phillip's College senior multimedia specialist Ruben Guerrero, who has lived there for about 50 years.
Stevens says she eats well. "I feel that most of us eat as clean as possible." She also gets plenty of exercise, especially with her two pooches. "I will take a walk with my dogs for 10 or 15 minutes, and it does bring a sense of well-being."
What about Guerro's health? He told us: "I do take care of myself. I use the local clinic that opened up about a year ago." He's always on the move. "There's always a demand to be at several locations throughout the day," Guerro said. "My steps are always at a certain level."
Both say access to health care plays a big part.
"It is important to visit the doctor regularly, especially with different cancers," Stevens said. "If they are caught early, there is a higher chance of survival rate."
Guerro pointed out one additional factor in longevity rates on the east side. He told us: "There is a need for additional and future health care facilities."
Alsip says stress tops the health list, along with "what kind of stresses that are going on. What is your emotional health? Is your emotional health important in your life?"
Stevens does what she can to keep her stress level down. She told us: "You will find me on the hammock all the time, halfway through my day at work, because I just know I need a break and to manage my stress levels."
Guerro added: "There will be stress only because the low income levels of a lot of the residents in the area affects their ability to provide for their families."
So whether it is access to health care, medical issues, stress or money, being on the right side of all of those aspects may mean you don't need to live on the right side of town to come out on the older side of the longevity average.