Black Death Toll from Diabetes is Staggering

Obesity and a sedentary lifestyle are the primary reasons behind a disturbing increase in the number of Type 2 diabetes cases in the United States. The areas with significant increases were in the South, home to the largest concentration of African Americans. After heart disease, cancer and homicide, diabetes is the fourth most prevalent reason that Black Americans die earlier than White Americans.

The states with the highest diabetes rates are Alabama, West Virginia, Mississippi, South Carolina, Tennessee, Louisiana, Arkansas, North Carolina, Florida and Delaware. Of those 10 states, nine are in the South. Data from the Centers for Disease Control show that only 10 counties in the United States saw a decrease in the number of Type 2 diabetes cases between 2004 and 2012. The vast majority saw an increase. An interactive map created by The Data Dude tells the story of the march of diabetes across the country, county by county. Hover over your county to see the percentages there.

In Henry County, Ala., for example, whose population is more than 32 percent black, the number of diabetes cases jumped to nearly 17 percent of the population. In Wilkinson County, Miss., which was founded as a center for cotton production based on slave labor and later sharecropping, more than 19 percent of the small population of less than 10,000 people have Type 2 diabetes. African Americans make up more than 68 percent of the population in Wilkinson County.

Map of United States and diagnosed diabetes cases

Interactive Map of Diagnosed Diabetes Prevalence by County

The increase in Type 2 diabetes is alarming because of the damage that it does to the human body and brain and because it is avoidable. Untreated diabetes can result in loss of limbs and eyesight, cardiovascular disease and kidney failure.

Obesity and lack of physical exercise are the biggest contributing factor to a person getting diabetes. More than two-thirds of the American population is overweight or obese, according to The Food Research and Action Center, a non-profit dedicated to eradicating hunger and undernutrition in the United States. Sadly, 82 percent of Black women and more than 77 percent of Hispanic women are overweight or obese. Hispanic men top out at more than 78 percent being overweight or obese as compared to 69 percent of Black men.  Maintaining a healthy weight and exercising can ward off diabetes and the damage to both mind and body.

As people age, the stakes become even higher other than having to take a maintenance regime of meds and, perhaps, insulin. Type 2 diabetes is a top cause of cognitive decline that can lead to Alzheimer’s disease. Researchers have concluded that if diabetes were 10 percent lower, that 81,000 Alzheimer’s disease cases worldwide could be prevented and 17,000 cases just in the United States. If diabetes were 25 percent lower, 203,000 cases could be avoided worldwide and 42,000 cases in the U.S. Imagine, 42,000 fewer mothers and fathers, aunts and grandfathers who could live out their senior years without losing their most precious assets: their minds and memories.

Author: Retha Hill

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