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Southern States Make Up Much of ‘Diabetes Belt’

Study Shows High Rates of Type 2 Diabetes in the South
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Stroke Belt vs. Diabetes Belt

A previously identified “stroke belt” has similarities to the diabetes belt. For example, the stroke belt includes Alabama, Arkansas, Georgia, Indiana, Kentucky, Louisiana, Mississippi, North Carolina, South Carolina, Tennessee, and Virginia.

“Diabetes is similar to stroke in that it is strongly affected by behavioral, cultural and environmental factors clustered and overlaid on genetic susceptibility,” the researchers write.

Until now, though, patterns of diabetes have not been specifically identified by county, and knowing where the prevalence of diabetes is highest could help planners and others reduce the risk of type 2 diabetes, according to the study.

Though maps of the two disease belts are similar, they are not identical. For example, much of West Virginia is in the diabetes belt but not in the stroke belt. No counties in Indiana are in the diabetes belt, but the state is part of the stroke belt.

Portions of Georgia, mostly in the northern part of the state, are not in the diabetes belt.

One of the differences between people in the diabetes belt and the rest of the U.S. is that the diabetes belt has a greater percentage of non-Hispanic African Americans. This suggests “that interventions that are specifically targeted toward” people of African-American ancestry would be appropriate, the researchers say.

Other factors contributing to the higher rate of diabetes in Southern states may include social and cultural factors.

“It is strongly recommended that public health officials consider culturally appropriate interventions to decrease obesity and sedentary lifestyle for counties within the diabetes belt,” the CDC says.

The research is published in the March issue of the American Journal of Preventive Medicine.

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