Diabetes and American Indians and Alaska Natives
Diabetes is a disease that afflicts millions
of American Indians and Alaska Natives living in the U.S. According to
the National Diabetes Information Clearinghouse (NDIC), this particular
ethnic group is about 2.2 times more likely to develop Diabetes than
Caucasian Americans. Furthermore, it is estimated that more than 15% of
American Indians and Alaska Natives have Diabetes and are receiving
care from the Indian Health Service (IHS.) Of this a little more than
8% of Alaska Natives and 27% of American Indians have Diabetes.
Researchers believe that many American Indians and Alaska Natives
have what the researchers refer to as a Thrifty Gene. The gene
allowed members of this population to survive when food was hard to
come by helping them use food energy more efficiently than other races.
This gene may still affect some American Indians and Alaska Natives who
have difficulty controlling their weight. This condition also appears
to relate to high blood pressure.
American Indians and Alaska Natives are particularly at risk for developing cardiovascular disease.
Cardiovascular disease is the leading cause of death among the American
Indians and Alaska Native population. When heart disease is coupled
with Diabetes, people are 2 to 4 times as likely to suffer a stroke or
die from the disease.
The American Indian Health Council reports that American Indians and Alaska Natives are six times more likely to develop kidney complications
than Caucasians. Diabetes is the leading cause for leg and foot
amputations, which occur three to four times more than in the general
population. Diabetic retinopathy (vision problems) occurs in 18% of the Pima Indian population and over 24% of the Oklahoma Indian population.
Diabetes is a self-managed disease. As such, it is important for Diabetics to educate themselves about Diabetes biology, causes, and treatment options. Losing 5% of ones body weight through physical activity, nutrition has proven to drastically reduce the effects of the disease, including the onset of complications.
In additional to weight loss and exercise, nutrition and medication
will also play important roles in the management of Diabetes. From a
food standpoint, Diabetics must limit the amount of sugar that they eat
in order to maintain a low blood sugar level.
Medication may also be necessary to help patients control their
Diabetes and reduce the risk of having complications. There are a host
of medications available, including oral medication and insulin. Depending on the type of Diabetes you have, your doctor will recommend different medications.
Speak to your healthcare provider immediately for more information
about Diabetes and the complications. Your doctor will recommend the
best course of treatment for you and your body.