Diabetes Belt

A Diabetes Belt cuts through the southern states in the USA where a higher prevalence of diabetes exists than the rest of the country according to a CDC report. As many as 644 counties in Alabama, Arkansas, Florida, Georgia, Kentucky, Louisiana, Mississippi, North Carolina, Ohio, Pennsylvania, South Carolina, Tennessee, Texas, Virginia and West Virginia have a higher than normal rate of diabetes. The rates are not similar in the counties, but vary a great deal.

Why is Diabetes More Prevalent in These Areas?

Diabetes Belt

In order to understand why the rates for diabetes in this region are higher than the rest of the country, you should look at the figures. Lawrence Barker, a mathematical statistician at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in Atlanta, a co-author of the study that had these findings said that demographics suggest says people living in the Diabetes Belt:

  • Are obese, with 32.9 percent in the overweight range compared to 26.1 percent in other areas.
  • Are non-Hispanic African-American.
  • Lead a sedentary lifestyle, with 30.6 percent being less active than 24.8 percent in the rest of the country.
  • Have below-average education levels, with only 24.1 percent of people holding a college degree, compared with 34.2 percent in the rest of the country.
  • Have a diagnosed diabetic rate of 11.7 percent, compared with 8.5 percent of the general populace.

Among the increased risk factors for the prevalence of diabetes in these areas are:

  • Race – African Americans have a greater likelihood of developing diabetes and the Diabetes Belt has a greater proportion of African Americans.
  • Lower education levels – These increase the risk of diabetes and the southern states have more people with lower education levels.
  • Age – The area has more residents over the age of 65 and older people are at greater risk of developing diabetes.
  • Lifestyle factors – While you cannot do anything about race or age, you can take care of lifestyle factors which play an important role in developing diabetes and its management and control.

Cultural and historical factors could have contributed to this as the southern states were predominantly agricultural in earlier times. People who do physical labor need higher calorie food, but as the places became industrialized the eating pattern continued, without the accompanying labor.

What Can Be Done to Combat This?

When the research so clearly points to the higher prevalence of this disease in the Diabetes Belt, the government should take policy decisions, aiming to prevent diabetes this region and unleash healthy lifestyle, anti-obesity and active health campaigns so that people are more informed about their risks and what they can do to minimize the causative factors.

The study shows that 30 percent of the risk factors can be modified by people who start reducing weight and overcoming sedentary behavior by going in for exercise programs to increase their physical fitness. State governments and community leaders can come together and:

  • Encourage an active lifestyle by building sidewalks in residential areas where none exist so that people can walk.
  • Ask restaurants to put the calorie counts of foods served in the menu.
  • Offer cheaper gym rates so more people can go use the services.
  • Levy additional tax on high calorie beverages.
  • Provide screening for diabetes– many people are at risk for diabetes and the sooner the diabetes is diagnosed, the lower the long term risks associated with this illness.

While the government and local bodies can only do so much, it is important that if you live in the diabetes belt and have the lifestyle factors that increase the likelihood of developing diabetes, you should take care of your health by following a nutritional diet, losing excess weight and being physically active. If you have any symptoms, do not ignore them and get tested at the earliest and try and ensure that your family, friends and colleagues also take care of themselves.


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