Researchers find 'diabetes belt' running through Southern U.S.

A new report from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has identified a group of states that officials are referring to as the "diabetes belt" of the U.S. for its high rates of type 1 diabetes and type 2 diabetes. The officials said that identifying these states could help them direct resources to prevent the disease.

There are 15 states that make up the diabetes belt, according to the report, which was published in the American Journal of Preventative Medicine. They include Alabama, Arkansas, Florida, Georgia, Kentucky, Louisiana, Mississippi, North Carolina, Ohio, Pennsylvania, South Carolina, Tennessee, Texas, Virginia and West Virginia.

Rates of diabetes run as high as 11 percent of the population in these states, which is significantly higher than the national average. Much of this can be blamed on obesity and lack of physical activity, according to the report. Nearly 33 percent of the residents of these states are obese, compared to 26 percent in the rest of the country. Furthermore, 30 percent lead sedentary lifestyles, compared to the national figure of just under 25 percent.

Racial factors may also account for some of the difference. These states have much higher populations of African Americans than the rest of the country. This demographic is known to have higher rates of diabetes.

Despite the figures, Lawrence Barker, who led the study, said that people who live in these areas aren't doomed to develop diabetes. Much of the risk is modifiable.

"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," he said. "Taking these steps will eventually lower the prevalence of diabetes within the diabetes belt."
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