CHARLESTON, W.Va. — West Virginia marks the start of the nation’s “diabetes belt,” that stretches across the Appalachian region and the Deep South, according to researchers with the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
A report, published last week in the American Journal of Preventive Medicine, maps the nation’s diabetes rate county-by-county and traces the highest rates along two paths — one through West Virginia, Kentucky and Tennessee, and the second through Louisiana, Mississippi, Alabama, Georgia and South Carolina.
In West Virginia, more than 10 percent of the residents have diabetes in 46 of the state’s 55 counties, according to the report.
McDowell County had the highest rate at 15.8 percent, and Marion County the lowest at 6.5 percent.
Earlier this year, the CDC identified the nation’s “obesity belt” that runs through the nation’s South and includes West Virginia, Kentucky, Tennessee, Mississippi, Louisiana, Arkansas, Missouri and Oklahoma.
As more people become obese, the rate of chronic diseases within a population will also increase, said Gina Wood, a manager with the West Virginia Diabetes Prevention and Control Program.
“Everything follows obesity,” Wood said.
Between 1999 and 2009, West Virginia’s obesity rate jumped from 24.6 percent to 31.1 percent.
During the same time period, the state’s diabetes rate increased from 7.1 percent to 12.3 percent. The national rate is 8.3 percent.
It circles back to a population’s ability to maintain a healthy lifestyle — access to affordable fruits and vegetables and areas to exercise, Wood said.
The rate of diabetes is significantly higher in people who are obese, physically inactive, and who suffer from cardiovascular disease, hypertension and high cholesterol, according to the state Diabetes Prevention and Control Program.
Obesity and a sedentary lifestyle also accounted for a 30 percent difference between counties across the nation with normal to near-normal rates of type-2 diabetes and counties with a high rate of diabetes, according to the CDC report.
About 35 percent of West Virginia residents do the recommended 20 to 30 minutes of moderate to vigorous exercise three to five days week, compared to about 51 percent nationally, according to the most recent CDC data.
About 25 percent of state residents eat fruit two or more times a day, and 22 percent eat the recommended three servings of vegetables a day, according to the CDC. Nationally, about 33 percent of Americans eat the recommended two servings of fruit a day, and 26 percent the recommended servings of vegetables.
“There is no questions that lifestyle has something to do with it, but social risk factors also play a large role,” Wood said.
Populations that experience a high rate of diabetes are the elderly, low income, veterans and blacks, in addition to people without a high school diploma, who lack emotional support, and who are uninsured or underinsured, Wood said.
About 256,500 state residents have been diagnosed with diabetes, and more than 85,500 people are undiagnosed, according to data from the state Diabetes Prevention and Control Program.
“We really need to get people diagnosed. There are so many people out there that are walking around and don’t know [they are diabetic],” Wood said. “People need to talk to their doctors about their risk factors, especially if you are overweight and over 40 or 45 [years old].”
Diabetes is a serious health risk if not managed, and the earlier the diagnoses the better health outcomes the person will have, Wood said.
“The lost [work] productivity, the high rates of blindness and amputations, these things are so incredibly costly to the state, plus it is an economic [burden] to the individual or their family, especially if they are underinsured,” she said.
Reach Veronica Nett at veroni…@wvgazette.com or 304-348-5113.
Article source: http://www.wvgazette.com/topStories13/201103121152