Lead investigator Lawrence E. Barker of the National Center for Chronic Disease Prevention and Health Promotion at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in Atlanta said it was in the 1960s when Southern states were identified as the "stroke belt," but this is the first time diagnosed diabetes clustering was identified in all U.S. counties.
The belt -- diabetes prevalence rates greater than 11 percent -- includes portions of Alabama, Arkansas, Florida, Georgia, Kentucky, Louisiana, North Carolina, Ohio, Pennsylvania, South Carolina, Tennessee, Texas, Virginia, West Virginia and the entire state of Mississippi.
"Although many risk factors for type 2 diabetes can't be changed -- age and race/ethnicity -- others can such as physical activity and eating healthier food," Barker said in a statement.
"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."
The diabetes belt counties contained substantially more non-Hispanic African-Americans compared with the rest of the country, obesity was more prevalent, sedentary lifestyle was greater and a smaller percentage of people have a college degree, Barker said.
The findings are published in the American Journal of Preventive Medicine.
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