Changing Patterns in Health Behaviors and Risk Factors Related to Cardiovascular Disease Among American Indians and Alaska Natives

An examination of changes in cardiovascular disease-related risk factors and health outcomes for American Indians and Alaska Natives found increases in the prevalence of diabetes, obesity and hypertension for all age groups, regions and educational levels.

The authors used data from the 1995-1996 and 2005-2006 Behavioral Risk Factor Surveillance System to determine the prevalence of type 2 diabetes, obesity, hypertension, smoking, sedentary behavior and low fruit or vegetable intake among American Indian and Alaska Native populations.

Between 1995-1996 and 2005-2006, the prevalence of diabetes increased by 26.9 percent; obesity increased by 25.3 percent; and hypertension increased by 5 percent. The prevalence of all three conditions increased in women and men across all age groups, regions and educational levels. The prevalence of smoking, sedentary behavior and fruit and vegetable intake did not significantly change, although rates of smoking and physical activity improved slightly. In 2005-2006, 79 percent of the population had one of the risk factors and 46 percent had two or more.

This study’s findings are consistent with previous research indicating that diabetes and obesity are more prevalent among American Indian and Alaska Native populations than among other ethnic groups. The authors recommend increased funding for the Indian Health Service, including for urban populations.