Health Disparities: American-Indians and Diabetes

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Health Disparities: American Indians and Diabetes Introduction Type 2 diabetes mellitus (T2D) is the most common form of diabetes (American Diabetes Association, 2012). T2D is so prevalent that it is estimated to be the fifth most common cause of death worldwide (Yates, Jarvis, Troughton, and JaneDavies, 2009, p. 1). T2D manifests when the body is unable to metabolize glucose properly, resulting in elevated blood sugar, debilitating fatigue, and other serious complications such as distal limb amputations, kidney failure, and blindness. The generally accepted causes of T2D include diet, sedentary lifestyle, and obesity. The environment therefore plays a significant role in T2D etiology and efforts to control its prevalence tend to focus on lifestyle changes (Yates, Jarvis, Troughton, and JaneDavies, 2009, p. 1-2). For example, improved diet and exercise programs have been shown to reduce the risk of disease by 50% to 90%. Since the environment plays a dominant role in determining disease prevalence, other factors such as cultural differences, socioeconomic status, and educational achievement would also tend to influence diabetes incidence. This essay will review the contributing factors that determine the prevalence of T2D in the American Indian population, a demographic with shockingly high rates. Epidemiology Between 1994 and 2004, the rate of diabetes mellitus among American Indians (AI) below the age of 35 doubled, from 8.5 to 17.1 diagnoses per 1,000 individuals,
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