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  • Q&A with Australian Health Practitioners

    Are Aborigines more at risk for type 2 diabetes?

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  • Eric Rosario

    Exercise Physiologist

    Master of Applied Science by Research into the Effects of Strength Training on Postmenopausal women. I have been involved in strength training for 67 years … View Profile

    The high rate of Type II diabetes is a major health problem among Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people. This is especially relevant because of the complications that can result from diabetes (Diabetes in Aboriginal Australians). The Australian Indigenous community have the fourth highest rate of Type II diabetes in the world. Estimates vary, but it is thought that between 10 and 30 per cent of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islanders have this type of diabetes (Aboriginal Health Issue = Diabetes – Better Health Issues2003).
    Added to this, the incidence of gestational diabetes is also two to three times higher among Indigenous women than in the general Australian population. Since many women who suffer from gestational diabetes go on to develop Type 11 diabetes in later years (Beat It), this adds to the problem.
    Not only is diabetes more common among aboriginals than among other Australians but it shows up earlier in life and therefore there is more chances of complications developing (Odea, Rowley and Brown). Complications that arise out of diabetes include a higher risk of heart attack or stroke, eye disease, mental problems, kidney disease and nerve damage, which may result in traumatic injury and infection, possibly leading to limb amputation.
    The death rate from diabetes and associated problems among Aborigines and Torres Strait Islanders is believed to be up to 17 times that of non-indigenous Australians, mainly due to high levels of cardiovascular and kidney disease (Diabetes in Aboriginal Australians).

    1.  Beat It Physical Activity and Lifestyle Program  Training Course Manual
    2  Diabetes in Aboriginal Australians –
    1.    Hee M. Type 2 Diabetes Mellitus, a review comparing Indigenous and Non-Indigenous Australians.
    2. O'Dea k, Kevin G Rowley and Alex Brown. Diabetes in Indigenous Australians: possible ways forward

  • Dr Stephen Leow

    HealthShare Member

    Unfortunately yes. It is thought that rapid lifestyle change is the cause. If you look at life 100 years ago, most aborigines would have a hunter gatherer life, with little processed carbohydrates and a low calorie diet. While most white people have had a more gradual change in lifestyle and have adapted to both diet and less exercise. Even then, there is an epidemic of T2DM. However, it is worse in all cultures where change is more rapid, eg a Chinese farmer moving to factory work in a city. There are also high rates of diabetes in China and India, as a result of rapid economic growth.

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