American Indians Higher Risk for Heart Disease

Based on this week’s materials the relationship between race, genetics and health is complicated and not fully understood. The lecture video (#2) states that biologically discrete races do not exist, meaning genetically there is no ‘race gene” many perceived in the past. The connection between race and genetics is not fully understood but still persist because of the large use in biomedical sciences. Race is based on physical appearance but is based of cultural, social and political concepts. Race and health have a strong relationship as seen by many epidemiological studies showing health inequalities in racially defined groups. The prevalence of type 2 diabetes is 38% for U.S Pima Indians compared to 8% in the U.S and 5% globally (Lecture video). Based on the thrifty genotype hypothesis this would show a relationship between genes and health. From my understanding of the lecture material genes can play an important role in the foundation for good health, race is biologically discrete, however it does have health inequalities within it.

amaerican indian health

The health disparity I chose was heart disease among American Indians. Heart disease is the leading cause of death among American Indians. My mother’s side of the family is American Indian and I thought the chart was interesting. The highest rates are in the Dakotas, Wisconsin and Michigan (CDC). The heart disease death rate was 20% higher among American Indians than among all U.S races (CDC). I believe heart disease is so prevalent among American Indians compared to other races mainly because of social factors. The hunter gatherer lifestyle consisted of a diet rich in fats, the introduction of the American diet did nothing to change that. Another social factor includes the generally low socioeconomic status many American Indians have. As well as high rates of smoking, moderate to heavy drinking and obesity across the American Indian population. I didn’t find any information on genetic factors that could be putting American Indians at a higher risk for heart disease but I would be interested to see if there were any.

“American Indian and Alaska Native Heart Disease and Stroke Fact Sheet.” Last modified July 23, 2013. Accessed July 8, 2014. http://www.cdc.gov/dhdsp/data_statistics/fact_sheets/fs_aian.htm

“Native American Disease and Epidemics.” Accessed July 8, 2014. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Native_American_disease_and_epidemics

This Post Has 2 Comments

  1. Vanessa Salmo says:

    I thought that it was very interesting to consider how the diet was in the past and how it has changed or not changed as Tyler mentions. I found this interesting because a lot of the health problems that the US faces are in part due to our diet. The onset of diseases such as cardiovascular diseases, diabetes, obesity, and so many more all are greatly influenced by eating habits. The American diet does primarily consist of fats and sugars. It is nearly impossible to teach people that things that are legal to sell on the market are killing them. If we don’t promote healthy eating habits or non-smoking how will the American culture change?

    I think that racial categories are important to include in studies because it tells researchers how people classify themselves. Although it is subjective information and cannot be tested it is important to have insight into cultural habits of individuals. Racial categories can also give us insight into socioeconomic status which has a lot of impact on one’s health.

  2. Vanessa Salmo says:

    Tyler I think it is awesome that you mentioned that there is no “race gene.” When you mentioned this I started to think about all of the different influences on genes and why different races and cultures of people look different.

    I thought that it was very interesting to consider how the diet was in the past and how it has changed or not changed as Tyler mentions. I found this interesting because a lot of the health problems that the US faces are in part due to our diet. The onset of diseases such as cardiovascular diseases, diabetes, obesity, and so many more all are greatly influenced by eating habits. The American diet does primarily consist of fats and sugars. It is nearly impossible to teach people that things that are legal to sell on the market are killing them. If we don’t promote healthy eating habits or non-smoking how will the American culture change?

    I think that racial categories are important to include in studies because it tells researchers how people classify themselves. Although it is subjective information and cannot be tested it is important to have insight into cultural habits of individuals. Racial categories can also give us insight into socioeconomic status which has a lot of impact on one’s health.

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