From 'Bible Belt' to 'Diabetes Belt'

Living in 15 states is diabetes dangerous

/ Author:  / Reviewed by: Joseph V. Madia, MD

(RxWiki News) You've heard of the 'rust belt', the 'bible belt', and possibly even the so-called 'stroke belt.' Now, researchers have identified an area of the United States they are calling the 'diabetes belt.'

Looking at geographic patterns of diabetes, researchers found that a cluster of 644 counties in 15 states (mainly in the southeastern United States) had significantly higher rates of diabetes.

dailyRx Insight: Being obese and physically inactive leads to diabetes.

According to lead investigator Lawrence E. Barker, Ph.D., of the CDC's National Center for Chronic Disease Prevention and Health Promotion, pinpointing those counties in which rates of diabetes are exceptionally high allows community leaders to effectively allocate resources to where they are most needed. Although many contributors to type 2 diabetes cannot be changed, Dr. Barkers says that certain aspects of community design can encourage physical activity. Community leaders can also improve access to healthy foods and promote lifestyle habits that reduce the risk of developing type 2 diabetes.

From their geographic analysis of diabetes rates, Barker and colleagues found that a disproportionately high prevalence of diabetes in the entire state of Mississippi and in parts of Alabama, Arkansas, Florida, Georgia, Kentucky, Louisana, North Carolina, Ohio, Pennsylvania, South Carolina, Tennessee, Texas, Virginia, and West Virginia.

The prevalence of diabetes in the diabetes belt was almost 40 percent, compared to just over 26 percent in the rest of the United States. Much of the difference in diabetes rates between the diabetes belt and the rest of the United States is related to inactive lifestyles and obesity.

Dr. Barker concludes that with simple advice people in the diabetes belt could reduce their risk of developing type 2 diabetes if they get up and get some exercise. Overweight and obese individuals, he adds, can reduce their risk of type 2 diabetes by losing weight.

In the United States each year, nearly 26 million individuals are affected by diabetes, with about seven million people going undiagnosed. Diabetes is a chronic metabolic disease with no cure in which a person has either high or low blood sugar, either because the body does not produce enough insulin or because cells do not respond to the insulin that is produced. There are three main types of diabetes: Type 1, Type 2 and Gestational. Several groups of drugs, mostly given by mouth, are effective for Type 2. The therapeutic combination in Type 2 may include insulin. The great advantage of injected insulin in Type 2 is that patients can adjust the dose according to blood glucose levels, usually measured with a simple meter. Along with the presence of physical symptoms, a common blood test known as the A1c can test for the disease.

The study by Barker and colleagues will appear in the April 2011 issue of the American Journal of Preventive Medicine.

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Review Date: 
March 8, 2011
Last Updated:
March 11, 2011