Why Am I at Higher Risk of Getting Diabetes?

Currently researchers believe that African-Canadians have a “thrifty gene” which helped their ancestors store food energy better during times when food was plentiful, to help them survive when food was scarce. Now, that “feast or famine” situation rarely occurs for most people in Canada, and this gene, which was once helpful may now promote obesity and increase the risk of developing type 2 diabetes. In addition, poverty, poor food choices, and lack of access to healthcare services may act as barriers to diabetes management and prevention, for minority groups such as African-Canadians.(1)

Risk of Complications

African-Canadians are more likely to experience the complications of diabetes, and are 27% more likely to die from diabetes related complications than Canadians of European descent. (2) African-Canadians with diabetes are more likely to undergo a lower leg amputation or develop diabetic retinopathy than other Canadians with diabetes. They are also four times as likely to develop kidney failure.(3)

What Can I Do?

While you can’t change your genetics, there are many simple ways that you can help prevent or manage diabetes. Eat healthy by reducing portion sizes, adding more fruits and vegetables, eating more whole grains. Get moving, and try to be active for 150 minutes each week. Go for a walk or bike ride with your family, take the stairs at work, or try a new fitness class at your community centre.

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1. CDC. (2014). Groups Especially Affected by Diabetes. Accessed on August 26, 2014 2.

2. Joslin Diabetes Centre. (2014). Programs for African Americans. Accessed on August 26, 2014 3.

3. Johns Hopkins University. (2014). Diabetes Statistics. Accessed on August 27, 2014