Thursday, May 26

From Bible Belt to Stroke Belt

For anyone that hasn't heard of it, the Bible Belt is an informal term for a region consisting primary of the southern, and some southwestern states of the U.S., where socially conservative evangelical Protestantism dominates the culture of these areas. For your reference, to your left is a map of what is typically deemed the "Bible Belt" determined based on Baptist population.

Now compare that with the map on the right based on the highest percentage of strokes. Crazy right? It seems eating all that "good American food" very common in this southern portion of the country might just send us all to heaven sooner than we might think. New York Times reports that the Bible Belt, with its deep fat frying and bad eating habits could be renamed: Stroke Belt.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) age-adjusted annual rates of stroke mortality among adults 35 and older in the eight Stroke Belt states (Alabama, Arkansas, Georgia, Louisiana, Mississippi, North Carolina, South Carolina, and Tennessee) were on average, 125 per 100,000 individuals, compared to 96 per 100,000 Americans in the remaining 40 contiguous states and the District of Columbia (2000-2006).

Preachers name all kinds of sins and their congregations know they should repent. Lying, stealing, drunkenness, cheating, disorderly conduct... Seems like they might have been leaving out one BIG one, Gluttony. We pig out as though this privilege of eating and drinking is ours to abuse any way we want. Big greasy breakfasts,large and hearty lunches,huge buffets of appetizers, followed by a main course, and then how could we leave out dessert! And don't forget calorie-rich drinks to get it all down. Yup it is all delicious, don't get me wrong, but it is killing you. Also, we can't compare ourselves to others and say, "Better than they are!" I'm not looking at anyone's sins because I know how broken my own heart is in this and other areas. I too love to eat unhealthy foods, drink soda, and sit around in front of the boob tube. But there comes a time when we have to step away and not overly indulge in such pleasures. Just because the bible belt is against other such sins gives them no right to jump to gluttony instead. It too needs to come to a halt.

On another, yet similar news a recent study has shown that this same Bible/ Stroke Belt has also been linked to Cognitive decline. Researchers believe shared risk factors among members of this population are to blame. The Reasons for Geographic and Racial Differences in Stroke (REGARDS) study, led by Principal Investigator George Howard, DrPH, recruited over 30,000 U.S. adults aged 45 or older from 2003 through 2007 and is following them for stroke and cognitive decline. REGARDS participants included 56% from the Stroke Belt states and 44% from the remaining states in the continental U.S. including D.C. which researchers collectively termed "non-Belt" states.

Researchers assessed brain function using the Six-item Screener (SIS)—a test of global cognitive function that includes item recall and temporal orientation. SIS scores range from 0 to 6 with a score of 4 or less representing cognitive impairment. Results indicate that 8.1% of participants showed cognitive impairment at their most recent assessment, over a mean of 4.1 years following the initial assessment. Stroke Belt residents had a greater likelihood of cognitive impairment than non-Belt residents (odds ratio=1.18); all demographic factors and time independently predicted impairment. Risk of cognitive impairment was 18% higher in residents of the Stroke Belt than in those living in non-Belt states after adjusting for the influences of age, sex, race, and education level.

I think this goes to show that the Bible Belt has much to fear, Damnation, Stroke, and Now Retardation. Yikes. Maybe I won't use my deep fryer tonight after all.

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