The rate of diabetes in Eeyou Istchee has climbed each year and is currently at epidemic proportions. As of 2004, over 1,230 Eeyouch were living with diabetes.

As part of November diabetes month, the Nation, along with the Cree Public Health Office, has released those statistics from 2004 to raise more awareness of this debilitating disease. The 2005 statistics will be out in December.

Since statistics were recorded in 1989, the rate of Eeyouch stricken by diabetes has increased every year. Waswanipi leads all nine communities in proportion of diabetes for those 15 and over with more than 20 per cent.

A healthy diet and exercise can limit the risk of contracting diabetes.

•1,232 Eeyouch are living with diabetes in Eeyou Istchee (July 2004).

•The number of Eeyouch diagnosed with diabetes continues to increase every year.

•27% of Eeyouch with diabetes are under the age of 40 years.

•39% of all Eeyouch with diabetes were diagnosed in the past 5 years.

This is very important because they will need to keep their blood sugar at healthy levels for many years to prevent future complications from their diabetes.

•53% of Eeyouch living with diabetes have succeeded in keeping their blood sugar at a healthy level this year.

•In the 60-69 age group almost half of all women have diabetes (47%).

•More than 50% of Eeyouch diagnosed with diabetes already have one or more diabetes related complications.

•Most of these complications are in the early stages when damage is still reversible.

•Almost half (46%) of all deaths of Eeyouch with diabetes in the past 8 years were due to heart or kidney failure.

How is diabetes increasing in the Eeyou Nation?

The proportion of Eeyouch (aged 15 years and over) diagnosed with diabetes increased every year between 1989 and 2004. The rate of diabetes has risen from 4.1% to 13.7%.

Predictions for the proportion of Eeyouch with diabetes in the next 10-20 years

Based on the increasing proportion of Eeyouch with diabetes over the past 6 years (1989-2004):

•In 10 years (2015), we expect 20% of Eeyouch (1 in every 5 Eeyouch) aged 15 and over will have diabetes.

•In 20 years (2025), we expect 25% of Eeyouch (1 in every 4 Eeyouch) aged 15 and over will have diabetes.

Of the 1,232 Eeyouch with diabetes in 2004*

615 (49.9%) have some amount of kidney damage (nephropathy):

394 (32%) • early kidney damage (“leaky kidneys”)

180 (14.6%) • moderate kidney damage 26 (2.1 %) • kidney failure (pre-dialysis)

15 (1.2%) • on dialysis

144 (11.7%) have some eye damage (retinopathy):

114 (9.3%) • mild retina damage

29 (2.4%) • required laser therapy (advanced retinopathy)

1 (0.1%) • documented to be blind

108 (8.8%) have some nerve damage (neuropathy):

89 (7.2%) • mild nerve damage

14(1.1%) • diabetic ulcers in legs or feet

5 (0.4%) • amputations

136(11%) have damage to blood vessels:

72 (5.8%) • heart disease

38 (3.1%) • stroke

16(1.3%) • poor blood flow to the feet

10 (0.8%) • documented to have sexual problems


♦This table may underestimate the true rate of complications from diabetes. These numbers are based on the information reported on the diabetes flow sheets in the clinics that are used to update the Cree Diabetes Information System (CDIS). As a result, complications not recorded on the flow sheets would not be included here.

More than 50% of the Eeyouch with diabetes already have one or more diabetes related complications.

Most of these complications are at an early stage. At this stage, there are often no symptoms and people may feel well. That is why diabetes is called a ‘silent disease’.

Studies have clearly shown that people who can keep their blood sugar, cholesterol and blood pressure at a healthy level, and live a healthy life (staying active, not smoking and eating healthy), can significantly decrease the complications from diabetes and prevent the “silent” early complications from getting worse.

Deaths and diabetes

Over the past 8 years (January 1996 – July 2004), 92 patients diagnosed with diabetes have died.

Of the 92 deaths, 30 were due to heart problems, 11 to kidney disease, 13 to infections, 35 were not related to diabetes (mostly cancer, accidents, etc) and 3 are unknown. This shows that almost half (46%) of the patients with diabetes died because of heart or kidney problems.

Cholesterol and blood pressure

People with diabetes have a higher chance of having heart disease. It is very important they keep healthy blood cholesterol (fat in the blood) and blood pressure at healthy levels in order to prevent heart disease.

In 2004, 40% of the Eeyouch with diabetes achieved healthy levels for “bad” LDL-cholesterol (goal is less than 2.5) compared to 31 % in 2002. Furthermore, the proportion of patients who had a healthy blood pressure (2 130/80) increased from 30% in 2002 to 49% in 2004.

Weight control

•Keeping a healthy weight is important to control blood sugar.

•82% of the Eeyouch diagnosed with diabetes are obese.

•Ask your clinic how to better manage your weight.

How well are Eeyouch with diabetes doing?

Blood sugar control In 2004, 53% of the Eeyouch with diabetes have kept their blood sugar at healthy levels (A I c level less than 7.0%). This is a significant overall improvement, compared to 32% of Eeyouch with healthy blood sugars in 2002 and 29% in 2001.

Nevertheless, in 2004, 554 (47%) Eeyouch still have blood sugar levels that are high, and are putting themselves at higher risk for diabetes complications.

If you are suffering from diabetes and would like to tell your story, please call or email us. We will be doing three profiles on Eeyouch with the disease and would love to hear from you! 514-272-3077 and ask for Steve, or send an email to

Source: Cree Public Health Office