If you live in one of the Southern or Appalachian states, you better be extra vigilant about your health. Diabetes prevalence is higher in these places than in any other part of the country, according to Medical News Today.

"This concentration of cardiovascular risks and diabetes points to the need for lifestyle and health care interventions in these states," said the Harvard School of Public Health's Goodarz Danae. Danaei worked with researchers to combine the data from the Behavioral Risk Factor Surveillance System and the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey. The research appeared in BioMed Central's open access journal Population Health Metrics.

Diabetes is more prevalent in the south because there's a higher rate of obesity, says endocrinologist Dr. Priscilla Hollander of the Baylor University Medical Center in Dallas. "And certainly with type 2 diabetes, obesity tends to bring it out," she explains. "Dietary patterns in the south are not as healthy as they could be and I'm sure this plays some role in weight challenges."

Adds Stuart Weiss, MD, endocrinologist and clinical assistant professor at New York University School of Medicine, "There's a lot of fried food in the south, and if you're eating a lot of fried food and not being physically active, then it becomes an issue with your weight."

Be Proactive

Take these steps to ensure a healthier lifestyle:

Look at your overall caloric intake, advises Dr. Hollander. If you start to gain weight, stop and ask yourself: 'What am I doing that is causing me to gain weight?' "It takes giving up a lot of calories to lose just one pound," Hollander says. "And once you accumulate the weight it is harder to get rid of it."

Take a long, hard look at how much physical activity you're getting, Dr. Weiss says. "If all you do is sit behind the computer or the wheel of a car, seek out some form of exercise that you enjoy." Be sure to pick an activity that you like--even just walking is great.

Eat These Foods

Simple food substitutions can save you extra calories and grams of fat.

● Instead of standing rib roast (220 calories and 18 fat grams in a 3-ounce serving), have 3 ounces of sliced lean round (138 calories and 4 fat grams.)

● Instead of a cup of mashed potatoes (237 calories and 9 fat grams), cut the numbers nearly in half by making the potatoes with skim milk and half the butter, or use fat-free chicken broth for flavoring and cut the butter in half.

● Instead of sugar cookies (169 calories and 8 fat grams), eat old fashioned gingersnaps (75 calories and 3 fat grams.)

● Rather than hot buttered rum (400 calories and 13 fat grams), have a wine spritzer (100 calories and no fat.)

● Instead of pigs in a blanket (310 calories and 22 fat grams in four), have a shrimp spring roll (100 calories and 2 fat grams.)