The following post was written by Jenna Walters, a recent college graduate majoring in English. This information certainly gives us something to think about.
Diabetes Belt Diagnoses
There are numerous demographic statistics available for learning about diseases ranging from heart disease to peritoneal mesothelioma. The availability of this data collection helps in disease prevention and health promotion. Recently, a new geographic segment within the United States has been associated with Diabetes.
According to the American Diabetes Association nearly 26 million people in the United States have diabetes. A recent study has revealed what researchers have long suspected. There is a high concentration of diabetes in the Southeast. Although the study does not differentiate between type I and type II diabetes, more than 90% of all diabetes in the United States is type II or adult onset diabetes. The study, which was done at the county level, reveals a pattern of type II diabetes in the Southeast that encompasses parts of fifteen states.
The national average for diabetes is 8.5%, but in what has now been defined as the diabetes belt, the rate is more than 11%. The states that comprise the diabetes belt are Alabama, Arkansas, Florida, Georgia, Kentucky, Louisiana, Mississippi, North Carolina, Ohio, Pennsylvania, South Carolina, Tennessee, Texas, Virginia, and West Virginia. The distribution, however, is far from even. States like Ohio and Texas have only a few counties with higher than normal rates while some states like Alabama have high rates in the majority of their counties. The entire state of Mississippi has a diabetes rate of 11% or more.
Researchers first identified this area of the Southeast in the mid 1960's as the stroke belt. Though the areas are not identical to the diabetes belt, the overlap is striking. A combination of factors such as high fat diet, obesity, hypertension, lower quality of healthcare, and lower socioeconomic status were found to be contributing factors to high mortality rates from stroke for those in the eleven states identified during that study. Today these same factors along with a sedentary lifestyle are contributing to the increase in diabetes in the same areas of the Southeast.
It was once thought that the higher concentration of African Americans in these areas contributed to higher rates since African Americans are more prone to diabetes. However, new research has found that even those living in these areas that are predominantly younger, white, and not obese are more likely to be diagnosed with type II diabetes than those living elsewhere. Researchers offer several possible reasons for this. Both stroke and diabetes are strongly affected by cultural and behavioral factors in addition to commonly recognized risk factors. Recommendations for those living in these areas include increasing physical activity, maintaining a healthy weight, and paying special attention to dietary choices.