Nation takes a healthy approach to fighing diabetes

Inna Dansereau,
Windspeaker Contributor,
Paul First Nation Alberta

Eighteen four-person teams came out to golf for a good cause despite the cold, windy weather on Sept. 7 -the second annual diabetes awareness golf scramble at the Paul First Nation.

The money goes to the Three Feathers Research Foundation, which is an extension of the Arnold J. Brant Scramble for Diabetes Golf Tournament organized by members of the Tyendinaga Mohawk Territory.

The mission of the foundation is to find and support research of clinical projects directly related to health issues affecting Aboriginal people.

"A Mohawk guy lost his brother to diabetes, and he started the foundation," said Henry Arcand, one of the organizers of the Paul First Nation tourney. In February, the foundation will be requesting proposals from different institutions, including the University of Alberta, for projects trying to stop the increasing diabetes problem in Aboriginal communities.

Assembly of First Nations vice-chief Wilson Bearhead was another organizer at the tournament at the Ironhead Golf Club, located west of Edmonton.

"For too long we've relied on the government to save us. From now and in the future we have to work together. We have to insure that those who have diabetes overcome it, and that our young people who don't have it now don't get it." Bearhead is diabetic.

"We came here (to the tournament) to support the foundation to fight this disease," he said. Victor Buffalo from Samson First Nation said the tournament was a very good initiative.

"My brother died in May of a heart attack; he was diabetic, so am I," he said.

According to the National Aboriginal Diabetes Association, the risk of diabetes among Aboriginal people is three times greater than among the general population. About two-thirds of the First Nations people with diabetes are women.

Recently, children aged five to eight have been diagnosed with Type II diabetes in central Canada. Diabetes occurs when the body can't control its blood sugar level. Symptoms of the disease include unusual thirst, frequent urination, unusual weight loss, lack of energy, blurred vision, frequent infections, numbness in hands or feet, and slow healing of cuts and bruises.

Sometimes, people don't show the symptoms. If left untreated, high blood sugar levels can damage blood vessels in the body, causing heart problems, high blood pressure, strokes, kidney disease, blindness, and limb amputations.

A healthy diet, weight control, exercise and stress reduction are prevention measures. Medications may be needed to assist the body in using insulin, which ensures energy needs are met.