First Nations People and Heart Disease

Aboriginal people are around twice as likely to get cardiovascular disease than other Canadians.

The Canadian constitution recognizes three groups of Aboriginal people: Indians (commonly referred to as First Nations; Métis; and Inuit. We use these specific categories where we have sources for them. The term Aboriginal peoples is employed in order to emphasize that there are more than 600 different Aboriginal communities in Canada.


Some Sobering Statistics

Aboriginal people are 1.5 to 2 times more likely to develop heart disease than the general Canadian population.

And 10.5 times more likely to die from coronary heart disease. 1

​​First Nations people on reserves have a rate of diabetes 3 to 5 times higher than that of other Canadians.

About 40% of Canada’s First Nations’ population lives on reserves.2

First Nations and Inuit people typically have heart attacks earlier in life than non-Aboriginals.

First Nations people who have heart attacks are more likely to have other conditions that raise their heart health risks, such as Type 2 diabetes. 3

Much of the burden caused by cardiovascular is preventable. Major modifiable risk factors include tobacco smoking, high blood pressure, high blood cholesterol, insufficient physical activity, being overweight and obese, diabetes, poor nutrition, and excessive intake of alcohol. Other risk factors that are beyond our control include age, gender, family history and ethnicity.

Know the risk factors

The First Nations population has higher prevalence for physical inactivity, smoking, overweight, obesity, high blood pressure and diabetes

All of which are risk factors for cardiovascular disease. 4

Aboriginal people are more likely to have high blood pressure and type 2 diabetes than the general population

This puts First Nations, Inuit and Métis people at a greater risk of cardiovascular disease. 4

Smoking rates among Canada’s Aboriginal populations are, on average, twice as high as those of non-Aboriginal Canadians. (39% vs. 20.5%).

Giving up smoking is the best thing you can do for your health. Smokers have a much higher risk of heart disease than non-smokers and are about four times more likely to die from heart disease than non-smokers. 5

What can I do... to help ensure a healthier future?

1. Adapt your lifestyle.

Consume a low-fat diet high in fruit and vegetables, moderate your alcohol intake and exercise regularly

2. Break the cycle.

Our children adopt healthy eating habits from a young age. Bring your kids up in an environment where you drink water, eat fresh food and play sport regularly.

3. Support medical research.

The Heart Research Institute is an internationally recognised medical research institute performing groundbreaking cardiovascular research. Established more than 25 years ago, today our work is more relevant than ever.


1 Canadian Heart Health Strategy and Action Plan Steering Committee. Canadian Heart Health Strategy andAction Plan: Building a Heart Healthy Canada. Ottawa, Canada, 2009
2 Diabetes in Canada: Facts and figures from a public health perspective, PHAC
3 Canadian Institutes for Health Information
4 Heart and Stroke Foundation
5 Physicians and a Smoke Free Canada, February 2013