Do You Live in “The Diabetes Belt?”

April 11, 2011

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diabetes beltIf you live in the Southeastern part of the United States, you’re smack in the middle of what experts from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention have just dubbed “The Diabetes Belt.”

Researchers recently came up with the title after reviewing the rates of type 2 diabetes from across the United States. The results showed about 12 percent of those living in “The Diabetes Belt” had the illness, compared to the average of 8.5 percent nationwide.

States with the highest diabetes rates include Alabama, Arkansas, Florida, Georgia, Kentucky, Louisiana, North Carolina, Ohio, Pennsylvania, South Carolina, Tennessee, Texas, Virginia, West Virginia, and Mississippi.

Experts speculated there were a number of reasons why people living in the Southeast had higher diabetes rates, including an inactive lifestyle, so-called “Southern cooking” which includes a lot of high-fat, high-calorie foods, lack of access to medical care, and a cultural acceptance of being overweight or obese.

I have seen firsthand that many of my patients who live or grew up in this part of the country often have a different attitude about being overweight. Rather than viewing it as a negative thing, many say they like being heavy or feel that they are more attractive with a “few extra pounds.”

And while this is great for their body image, I think the troubling thing is they seem to be in denial about the impact those extra pounds may be having on their health.

It’s also no coincidence that this part of the country also has some of the nation’s highest rates of obesity, as the two conditions often come in pairs. People living in the Southeast also have higher rates of other obesity-related illnesses like heart disease and stroke.

The good news is that about 80 percent of the time, even a modest weight loss of about 20 pounds can lead to a dramatic improvement for those with type 2 diabetes. I have seen many of my patients be able to come off medication and begin to manage their diabetes with a combination of diet and exercise in just a matter of weeks.

So no matter where you live, what you weigh, or whether or not you already have type 2 diabetes, it’s never too late to do something about it. Even better, it won’t take a 100-pound weight loss or months on end to start to see the results of your efforts. You’ll dramatically start to improve your health almost immediately.

Losing weight when you have a medical condition like diabetes is especially tricky, and you should be sure to do so under the care of a medical professional. If your doctor doesn’t have good answers for you about how you can start moving your weight in the right direction, give The Center for Medical Weight Loss a call. We’ll be happy to work with you and your doctor to tackle your weight issues safely and effectively, dramatically improving your overall health in the process.

Dr. Michael Kaplan

Founder and Chief Medical Officer

The Center for Medical Weight Loss

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