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Last updated on April 18, 2014 at 14:58 EDT

Diabetes Belt Identified

March 10, 2011

(Ivanhoe Newswire) — In the 1960′s, public health authorities recognized 11 states in the southeastern United States for having an unusually high incidence of stroke and cardiovascular disease.  They coined the term “stroke belt” for these states with high age-adjusted stroke mortality.  Until recently, researchers never added another notch to the belt; but with diabetes affecting 8 percent of the U.S. population (23.6 million), scientists were able to indentify clustered high prevalence areas of 644 counties in 15 southeastern states through data compiled of evidence of the prevalence of diagnosed diabetes for every U.S. county.

“Identifying a diabetes belt by counties allows community leaders to identify regions most in need of efforts to prevent type 2 diabetes and to manage existing cases of the disease,” which lead investigator Lawrence E. Barker, PhD, Division of Diabetes Translation, National Center for Chronic Disease Prevention and Health Promotion, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), Atlanta, GA., was quoted as saying.

 ”Although many risk factors for type 2 diabetes can’t be changed, others can. Community design that promotes physical activity, along with improved access to healthy food, can encourage the healthy lifestyle changes that reduce the risk of developing type 2 diabetes.”

Practically one third of the difference in diabetes incidence between the “Ëœdiabetes belt’ and the rest of the United States is associated with inactive lifestyles as well as obesity.  30 percent of the excess risk was associated with modifiable risk factors, in addition to 37 percent with non-modifiable factors, such as age and race/ethnicity.

Statistics from the “Ëœdiabetes belt’ illustrated prevalence rates greater than 11 percent or higher.  By comparing demographics and risk factors such as gender, age, education, sedentary lifestyle, obesity, and race/ethnicity, researchers discovered four factors that distinguished the “Ëœdiabetes belt’ from the rest of the country.

“¢ Population of the diabetes belt counties contained substantially more non-Hispanic African Americans compared to the rest of the country (23.8 percent for the diabetes belt, 8.6 percent for the rest of the country). ?

“¢ Prevalence of obesity (32.9 percent vs. 26.1 percent) was greater in the diabetes belt than in the rest of the U.S.?

“¢ Sedentary lifestyle (30.6 percent vs. 24.8 percent) was greater in the diabetes belt than in the rest of the U.S.?

“¢ Proportion of people with a college degree was smaller (24.1 percent vs. 34.3 percent).

The report confirms that 644 counties make up the “Ëœdiabetes belt’.  This belt includes portions of the states of Alabama, Arkansas, Florida, Georgia, Kentucky, Louisiana, North Carolina, Ohio, Pennsylvania, South Carolina, Tennessee, Texas, Virginia, and West Virginia, as well as the entire state of Mississippi.

“People who live in the diabetes belt will reduce their chance of developing type 2 diabetes if they are more active physically and, for those who are overweight or obese, if they lose weight,” concludes Barker.

 ”Taking these steps will eventually lower the prevalence of diabetes within the diabetes belt.”

SOURCE: American Journal of Preventative Medicine, 8 March 2011