Heart Disease and Diabetes


Heart disease is the leading cause of death among American Indians. The Strong Heart Study reports 2,467 deaths from heart disease last year. Among American Indian women age 18 and older, 61.4 percent have one or more cardiovascular disease risk factors—hypertension, current cigarette smoking, high blood cholesterol, obesity or diabetes. American Indian women have the highest prevalence of cigarette smoking (40.8%) compared to any other ethnic group. According to CDC, 36.5% of men 18 years and over currently smoke (2002–2004).


Type 2 diabetes is a serious chronic health problem facing American Indian’s. Approximately one third of American Indian’s aged 45 or older have diabetes (CDC, 2005). Native American women suffer from the second highest rate of being overweight, which places them at a higher risk for diabetes. Native American women have the highest age-adjusted death rates for diabetes, one that is 3.5 times greater than the overall population (see figure 6). 65% of American Indian’s receiving care from Indian Health Services have diabetes.


American Indian’s are almost 3 times as likely to have diabetes as non-Hispanic whites. Rates of end-stage-renal-disease, a complication of diabetes, are increasing at a rate of 10% per year for American Indian’s compared to 6% per year for whites.


Figure 6: The Strong Heart Study

For more information on the Strong Heart Study, see the Strong Heart Study Website


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