Globally, the prevalence rates of diabetes are considerably higher among the Indigenous population than the general population (Yu & Zinman, 2007). In the Canadian Aboriginal population, the diabetes prevalence rates are up to 4.5 times higher (Green, Blanchard, Young, & Griffith, 2003). The higher rates can be attributed to diabetes risk factors such as sedentary lifestyle, unhealthy eating habits, and low education and low income (Douglas, 2013). Some of the solutions to this health problem include screening for diabetes and the promotion of healthy behaviors (Young, Reading, Elias, & ONeil, 2000).
One of the most important lifestyle factor associated with diabetes among Aboriginal people is a decline in physical exercise. Even though the Canadian population is sedentary, the inactivity of the Aboriginal people is more recent and is closely related to dietary changes. Their traditional diet, which involved hunting, gathering, and fishing, was physically engaging than the modern market diet foods which are less physically demanding to acquire (Douglas, 2013).
Another critical risk diabetes risk factor in Aboriginal communities is an unhealthy diet. Because most of these people live in rural and remote areas of Canada, they prefer foods with long shelf life, which is mainly frozen and highly processed foods and disregard healthy perishable foods such as fruits and vegetables (Douglas, 2013). Consequently, they have higher obesity rates.
There is also an association between low education and low income and higher rates of diabetes among the Aboriginal individuals. Higher illiteracy rates are associated with lack of awareness of diabetes prevention approaches and risk factors. Additionally, low income inhibits diversification of diet and reduces accessibility to expensive hunting and gathering equipment, hence have decreased access to traditional wild foods which are healthier (Douglas, 2013).
The high diabetes prevalence rates can be reduced through early screening and promotion of healthy behaviors. It is recommended that fasting plasma glucose levels should be tested at least once in every three years in this Aboriginal people. Lower diabetes rates can also be achieved through promotion of physical activity and balanced diet (Young, Reading, Elias, & ONeil, 2000).
Douglas, V. K. (2013). Introduction to Aboriginal health and health care in Canada bridging health and healing. New York, NY: Springer.
Green, C., Blanchard, J. F., Young, T. K., & Griffith, J. (2003). The epidemiology of diabetes in the Manitoba-registered First Nation population: current patterns and comparative trends. Diabetes Care, 26(7), 19931998.
Young, T. K., Reading, J., Elias, B., & ONeil, J. D. (2000). Type 2 diabetes mellitus in Canadas First Nations: status of an epidemic in progress. CMAJ: Canadian Medical Association Journal, 163(5), 561566.
Yu, C. H. Y., & Zinman, B. (2007). Type 2 diabetes and impaired glucose tolerance in Aboriginal populations: a global perspective. Diabetes Research and Clinical Practice, 78(2), 159170.
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