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How to Combat the Diabetes Crisis Among Native Americans

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  • Written By: Caren Pfieffer
How to Combat the Diabetes Crisis Among Native Americans

November is Native American Heritage Month, a time to pay tribute to the rich history and traditions of Native Americans and to celebrate their culture. November is also American Diabetes Month, a time to raise awareness about diabetes and to provide support to individuals managing diabetes care.

Diabetes is the leading cause of kidney failure, a costly condition that requires serious surgical procedures. Native Americans are at greater risk of diabetes compared to other ethnic groups in the United States. Native Americans are twice as likely as whites to have diabetes, and in the approximately two out of three Native Americans with kidney failure, diabetes is the cause.

Multiple factors may contribute to the increased risk for diabetes and kidney disease within Native American communities, including genetic, environmental and behavioral issues such as poverty, poor health care, imbalanced nutrition, or a predisposition toward insulin resistance.

So what can be done?

As an integrated healthcare provider, Jewish Family & Children’s Service knows the positive impact that detecting and managing diabetes in all populations can be.

Patients with diabetes and their families can:

  1. Get regular check-ups and ask about getting tested for kidney disease.

  2. Check blood pressure and blood sugar regularly, discuss the care plan with your healthcare provider.

  3. Reduce salt intake to lower blood pressure and protect the kidneys.

  4. Be more physically active. Exercise can help you lose weight, lower blood sugar, and boost your insulin sensitivity—which helps keep your blood sugar within a normal range.

  5. Make healthier eating choices whenever possible—although not everyone has plant foods easily accessible or affordable, avoiding processed foods when possible is a great preventative measure for diabetes.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) predict that one in two Native American children born in 2000 will have type 2 diabetes in their lifetime. Taking these important precautions will go a long way in halting that trend.

Caren Pfeiffer

Caren Pfieffer is a nurse practitioner at the Michael R. Zent Healthcare Center.