Skip to content

Diabetes Health Center

Font Size

Southern States Make Up Much of ‘Diabetes Belt’

Study Shows High Rates of Type 2 Diabetes in the South
WebMD Health News
Reviewed by Laura J. Martin, MD

March 7, 2011 -- The CDC says the highest rates of type 2 diabetes in the U.S. are in a “diabetes belt” in 15 mostly Southern states.

Researchers say the diabetes belt is similar to a “stroke belt” identified in earlier studies.

The diabetes belt includes 644 counties in portions of Alabama, Arkansas, Florida, Georgia, Kentucky, Louisiana, Mississippi, North Carolina, Ohio, Pennsylvania, South Carolina, Tennessee, Texas, Virginia, and West Virginia.

Nearly a third of the difference in diabetes prevalence between the diabetes belt and the rest of the U.S. is associated with sedentary lifestyles and obesity.

“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,” says Lawrence E. Barker, PhD, in a news release. Barker is with the CDC’s division of diabetes translation.

“Although many risk factors for type 2 diabetes can’t be changed, others can,” Barker says. “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.”

Diabetes Belt Demographics

The researchers identified four factors that distinguished the diabetes belt from the rest of the U.S.:

  • The population of the diabetes belt counties contained substantially more non-Hispanic African-Americans than the rest of the country. In percentage terms, 23.8% of people in the diabetes belt were non-Hispanic African-Americans, compared to 8.6% for the rest of the country.
  • 32.9% of people in the diabetes belt were classified as obese, compared to 26.1% in the rest of the country.
  • 30.6% of people in the diabetes belt counties were judged to lead sedentary lifestyles, greater than the 24.8% for the rest of the nation.
  • Only 24.1% of people in the diabetes belt counties have a college degree vs. 34.2% in the rest of the U.S.

“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,” Barker says. “Taking these steps will eventually lower the prevalence of diabetes within the diabetes belt.”

Is This Normal? Get the Facts Fast!

Check Your Blood Sugar Level Now
What type of diabetes do you have?
Your gender:

Get the latest Diabetes newsletter delivered to your inbox!


Your level is currently

If the level is below 70 or you are experiencing symptoms such as shaking, sweating or difficulty thinking, you will need to raise the number immediately. A quick solution is to eat a few pieces of hard candy or 1 tablespoon of sugar or honey. Recheck your numbers again in 15 minutes to see if the number has gone up. If not, repeat the steps above or call your doctor.

People who experience hypoglycemia several times in a week should call their health care provider. It's important to monitor your levels each day so you can make sure your numbers are within the range. If you are pregnant always consult with your health care provider.

Congratulations on taking steps to manage your health.

However, it's important to continue to track your numbers so that you can make lifestyle changes if needed. If you are pregnant always consult with your physician.

Your level is high if this reading was taken before eating. Aim for 70-130 before meals and less than 180 two hours after meals.

Even if your number is high, it's not too late for you to take control of your health and lower your blood sugar.

One of the first steps is to monitor your levels each day. If you are pregnant always consult with your physician.

Did You Know Your Lifestyle Choices
Affect Your Blood Sugar?

Use the Blood Glucose Tracker to monitor
how well you manage your blood sugar over time.

Get Started

This tool is not intended for women who are pregnant.

Start Over

Step:  of 

Today on WebMD

Diabetic tools
Symptoms, diagnosis, treatment, and more.
woman flexing muscles
10 strength training exercises.
Blood sugar test
12 practical tips.
Tom Hanks
Stars living with type 1 or type 2.
kenneth fujioka, md
Can Vinegar Treat Diabetes
Middle aged person
Home Healthcare

Prediabetes How to Prevent Type 2 Diabetes
type 2 diabetes
food fitness planner