Diabetes affects people from various ethnic backgrounds differently. Experts believe that Aboriginal people have a much higher risk of diabetes (3 to 5 times higher) compared to other Canadians.

There are also differences between Aboriginal subgroups, as the rates of diabetes appear to be highest among First Nations, followed by Métis, and lowest among Inuit. About 20% of First Nations adults have diabetes, and the risk is highest among people living on reserve. There is also a very high incidence of type 2 diabetes in Aboriginal children and youth.

In addition to diabetes and its complications, people of Aboriginal descent are also at high risk for heart disease. Because of this, it is especially important to take extra care to lead a healthy life.

Here are some healthy living tips:

  • Discuss your individual risk of diabetes:  Since people of Aboriginal descent have an overall higher risk, you should ask your physician, nurse, pharmacist, or other primary health care provider about your individual risk for diabetes.
  • Keep active:  Regular exercise is good for everyone, and especially for people with diabetes. You may need to consult your health care provider on how much exercise is right for you.
  • Eat a balanced, culturally-relevant diet:  The Aboriginal version of Eating Well with Canada's Food Guide provides advice that reflects the values, traditions, and food choices of First Nations, Métis, and Inuit. For more help, ask for a referral to a dietitian who is familiar with the Aboriginal diet.
  • Maintain a healthy weight:  Check with your physician, nurse, and dietitian on how to reach and maintain a healthy weight over time.
  • Take your medications as prescribed:  Medications are often a necessary part of diabetes management. Your physician and pharmacist can advise on the best medications for your diabetes and help you take them as prescribed.
  • Know your target numbers:  People with diabetes have specific targets when it comes to blood sugars, blood pressure, and cholesterol. People who are able to reach these targets will have better long-term outcomes. Find out what your target numbers should be, and work with your health care team to get there.
  • Get a checkup from head to toe:  Your specialists and regular health care team can help you check for signs of eye, kidney, nerve, and feet problems.
  • Stop smoking as soon as possible:  Smoking is harmful, and especially for people with diabetes. If you are a smoker, it's never too late to quit. There are many tools available to help you quit smoking.