People who live in neighborhoods that promote a fitness lifestyle, easy access to healthy foods and a pleasant environment (one with parks and reliable transportation) have a reduced risk of getting type 2 diabetes compared with those living in less healthy areas, according to research by Philadelphia’s Drexel University, reports HealthNews.

Researchers evaluated the responses of study participants, who lived in Forsyth County in North Carolina, Baltimore or the Bronx in New York City, to determine the overall health of their communities.

The results of a five-year follow-up showed that people who lived in healthy neighborhoods were less likely to develop type 2 diabetes. (Only 10 percent of the study participants were diagnosed with the condition.)

“The strength of the association was considerable and equivalent to a reduction in type 2 diabetes incidence associated with a BMI (Body Mass Index) of 5 [points] lower in this sample,” according to the study’s authors. “Altering our environments so that healthier behaviors and lifestyles can be easily chosen may be one of the key steps in arresting and reversing these epidemics.”

But further studies are needed to understand the true impact of healthy surroundings, researchers said.

Currently, Philadelphia launched several initiatives to improve its low-income communities. These neighborhoods now have farmers markets, full-size supermarkets, bike lanes and low-cost projects to encourage exercise.

About 23.6 million Americans and 246 million people worldwide have diabetes; the majority of them live with type 2 diabetes.

Type 2 diabetes has steadily increased during the past 30 years. Click here to discover why the condition is still a clear and present danger.