Preventing Diabetes in Aboriginal People

close up of aboriginal woman

Did you know? Aboriginal people are at higher risk for Type 2 diabetes compared to other Canadians. Read on to learn more about how you can lower your risk of diabetes.   

Am I at risk for diabetes?

You are at higher risk for diabetes if you:

  • Are a member of a high risk ethnic group (including being Aboriginal)
  • Have family members with diabetes
  • Are 40 or older
  • Are overweight or obese
  • Have low physical activity
  • Have high blood pressure
  • Have high cholesterol
  • Had diabetes while pregnant (gestational diabetes) or gave birth to a baby over 4 kg (9 lbs)
  • Smoke

Talk about these risk factors and others with your health care provider.

Should I get screened for diabetes?

Yes. If you are an Aboriginal adult, you should be screened every 1 to 2 years if you have one or more risk factors for diabetes. Screening for diabetes includes blood tests to see how much glucose is in your blood. Aboriginal children over age 10 should be screened every 2 years if they have one or more risk factors for diabetes, including having a mother who had gestational diabetes.

How can I lower my risk for developing diabetes?

Choose traditional foods 

Traditional Aboriginal foods can help form a balanced diet for you and your family. Eat together as a family, and make simple meals with:

  • Vegetables and fruit
  • Wild meat and fresh/canned fish
  • Whole grain bannock and noodles, brown and wild rice, oats, and other whole grains
  • Eggs
  • Legumes
  • Nuts and seeds
  • Skim milk powder and UHT milk

Review Eating Well with Canada's Food Guide First Nations, Inuit and Métis to learn more.

Limit processed foods 

Eat processed foods less often and in small amounts. They are higher in salt, sugar and fat compared to fresh foods. Processed foods include:

  • Fast food (like hamburgers, French fries and chicken nuggets)
  • Pop, fruit drinks and drink crystals
  • Chips and salty snacks
  • Frozen dinners
  • Pastries, cookies, baked goods, chocolate bars and candy
  • Canned or processed meat (deli meat, hot dogs)
  • Canned soups
  • Processed cheese 

Limit fat intake 

Steam, broil, barbeque, bake and roast foods rather than frying them. Use small amounts of vegetable oil instead of lard. Read more about reducing fat in the kitchen.

Eat smaller portions 

Smaller portions can help manage your weight. Learn how to keep your portions under control.

Be active 

Try to be active for at least 150 minutes/week. That’s about 30 minutes/day on five days of the week. You can start with just 10 minute at a time. Choose activities that you enjoy and ones that you can do together as a family. If you are new to physical activity, speak to your health care provider before getting started. For more tips read Physical Activity and Diabetes.

What if I have questions about preventing diabetes? 

There are many people that can help in your community. Based on availability in your community, speak with a:

  • Community Health Representative
  • Registered Dietitian
  • Registered Nurse
  • Aboriginal Health Access Centre (with health outreach workers or diabetes educators)
  • Friendship Centre (health workers)

Bottom line 

Being Aboriginal means you are at higher risk for Type 2 diabetes. Take healthy steps to help prevent diabetes by eating healthy foods, being active and managing your weight.

You may also be interested in:

Diabetes Menu Plan
Diabetes Complications - Why should I be worried?
Focus on Carbohydrate (Video)


Last Update – April 26, 2018

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