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Julie Tam, NBCDFW.com
60,000 North Texans are no eligible for lap band surgery thanks to new FDA requirements.
About 600,000 North Texans are now eligible for lap-band surgery after federal regulators widened eligibility last week.
The Food and Drug Administration approved use of the weight-loss surgery at a lowered minimum body mass index of 30 if the patient has another obesity-related condition, such as diabetes or high blood pressure.
The minimum BMI remains at 40 for people without such a condition.
Bariatric surgeons across the Metroplex said they are already are seeing more people interested in the procedure, which involves tying a band around the upper stomach to shrink a patient's appetite.
At least one in four Texans is considered obese -- having a BMI of 30 or higher -- according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
Terri Williams visited Dr. Nick Nicholson at Baylor Regional Medical Center at Plano on Friday. Williams, a busy professional and world traveler who has diabetes, is now eligible for the surgery under the new rules.
She said diet and exercise haven't been enough to shed the pounds.
"I've tried Weight Watchers online," she said. "I've done Lose It! with my iPhone. You name it, I've tried it. I'm excited because I didn't want to have to gain weight in order to become eligible."
Nicholson said some North Texans did just that -- made themselves unhealthier for a chance to get healthy.
"So, unfortunately, a lot of our patients had to just wait until they achieved that weight in order to be a candidate, so now we're going to be able to get to that much earlier in the process," he said. "Surgery should always be the last resort for people looking to lose weight. They should exhaust all of their nonsurgical options. They should try diets. They should try exercise."
Williams said she wants to get back to traveling the world, not fighting with her weight.
"I just got back from Hong Kong," she said. "I'm really looking forward to being able to do those things and to be able to live a healthy and productive life, so it's time to make some changes."
Nicholson said lap-band surgery is a successful procedure. He said that 95 percent of people who have the surgery lose 65 percent of their excess weight within five years.