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Obesity, diabetes plague South

POSTED: November 25, 2009 10:08 a.m.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recently released a national survey that shows the Southeast has the highest rates of obesity and diabetes among its residents, compared with other regions of the country.
More than 75 percent of counties across Georgia, South Carolina, Alabama, Mississippi and Louisiana show high rates of obesity and diabetes, according to the CDC report. CDC officials claim there is scientific data to support a link between obesity and type 2 diabetes.
This finding does not surprise local health-care providers, concerned Georgians or those in the fitness field.
As long ago as 2003, the Georgia Diabetes Advisory Council released its county-by-county survey showing the number of people in the state who suffer from diabetes. The council’s survey included human and financial costs associated with the disease. However, the obesity factor was not included.
The prevalence of diabetes among Liberty County residents from 2000-01 was 4.6 percent, according to the council’s survey. Of those 1,920 people with the disease, 20 died between 1996-2000, 60 were hospitalized and the total cost was $599,000.
In Bryan County, the rate of diabetes was higher, 6.7 percent. Of those 1,080 people with diabetes, 21 died between 2000-01, 37 were hospitalized and the cost was $407,000.
Long County had lower rates than the other two coastal counties, but it also has a smaller population. Its rate was 3.7 percent. Long County had 260 people with diabetes from 2000-01. Of that number, four died, nine were hospitalized and the cost was $216,000, according to the Georgia Diabetes Advisory Council survey.
Doctors and fitness experts agree there is no magic cure for obesity or diabetes. Obesity most often leads to diabetes and other health problems, they say. The best way to treat both issues takes determination on the part of the patient: healthy eating habits and exercise.
Dr. Nizar Eskandar with Liberty Regional Medical Center treats a significant number of diabetic patients. Many of those are also overweight, Eskandar said. He is certified in nephrology, meaning he specializes in kidney disease, and he is certified in internal medicine.
Eskandar said diabetes is a leading cause of renal failure, and therefore those patients must be put on dialysis, he said.
He explained that obesity is a factor in causing diabetes, because obesity plays a role in insulin resistance.
According to the Web site, www.sciencedaily.com, a condition known as endoplasmic reticulum stress is induced by a high-fat diet and is often found in obese people.
ER “triggers aberrant glucose production in the liver, an important step on the path to insulin resistance,” states the Web site.
The Hinesville physician said in addition to diabetes, obesity is tied to other serious health problems, such as heart disease, high cholesterol, high blood pressure and liver and gallbladder disease.
Patients being treated for obesity and diabetes should eat a diet low in carbohydrates and high in fiber, Eskandar said. They also should stay active and initiate a regimen of aerobic exercise, such as vigorous walking.
Peggy McRae, who owns Curves in Hinesville, said a significant number of the fitness club’s members are struggling with obesity and some of them also are diabetic. They have come to Curves to lose weight through exercise and to find support in learning healthy eating habits, McRae said.
McCrae, who is 65 and has been a member of Curves since 2002, reached her goal of “going from a size 14 to a size 10 in a year. I reached my goal and I’ve been here ever since.”
The Curves owner advises members stay at a constant weight after they reach their goal.
“We recommend eating healthy and not dieting,” she said
McCrae, a native Southerner, said many people are overweight in the South because many traditional Southern foods are fried, high in sugar and include lots of “white flour and rice.”
“Here in the South, we eat a lot of starches. And we don’t do that much exercising,” she said.
McCrae cautions people with a family history of diabetes to take care of themselves, starting at a young age, to help prevent the disease.
“I have a history of it on both sides of my family,” She said. “My doctor told me to eat right and exercise when I was 35. If I had not worked on preventing it, I would have gotten it.”
In addition to adults who exercise at Curves to lose weight and improve their health, some members bring their children and grandchildren to the fitness club, McCrae said.
“If they can reach the equipment, they can work out,” she said.
The gym owner said she thinks there are more overweight children now than ever before.
“We have a lot of kids today that are overweight,” she said. “They eat junk food and they sit on the computer.”
Kids need to be more active and learn good eating habits just as adults do, McCrae said.
 

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