How ethnicity affects your risk for diabetes and heart disease

November is Diabetes Awareness Month, a time to remind people with diabetes to prioritize their health and understand that diabetes can put them at risk for other conditions, such as heart disease.

Approximately one in two people with type 2 diabetes will die of heart disease, which includes heart attack, heart failure and stroke. But  even one life lost is too many.

While age, family history and weight are all risk factors, ethnicity is also an important variable when it comes to diabetes. This is especially worrisome for the nearly two million Canadians of Southeast Asian descent, who, along with people of African, Arab, Asian and Indigenous heritage, are more vulnerable to type 2 diabetes and heart disease.

New research from the My Heart Matters survey finds there is a knowledge deficit among Southeast Asian Canadians with type 2 diabetes, as 91 per cent feel they are knowledgeable about their disease management but 60 per cent do not know their diabetes alone significantly increases the risk of heart attack, heart failure and stroke.

Fortunately, there are simple steps people with diabetes can take to protect their heart health while still enjoying many of the things they love.

For example, when preparing meals, Diabetes Canada recommends these key tips:

  1. Limit amounts of starchy foods, like rice and roti, which can raise your blood sugar.
  2. High-protein foods (chicken, fish, beans, lentils and paneer) should make up no more than a quarter of your plate.
  3. Use vegetable curries and salads to fill the other half of your meal, while limiting starchy vegetables such as potato, corn and peas.
  4. Use smaller plates to control portion sizes.

There are also medications that, along with diet and exercise, have been proven to lower the risk of dying from problems related to your heart and blood vessels.

If you have type 2 diabetes, speak with your doctor about steps you can take to help manage your risk of heart disease. Learn more at

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