Cardiovascular Disease

A Culturally-Relevant Perspective on This Issue


Cardiovascular disease (CVD) refers to conditions that affect the heart or blood vessels, including: arteriosclerosis, coronary artery disease, arrhythmia, heart failure, hypertension (high blood pressure), and cerebrovascular heart disease (stroke), to name a few [1]. CVD is 1.5 times higher among First Nations and Inuit Populations than in the general Canadian population [2]. Data on CVD in Aboriginal peoples, in particular the Métis population, are lacking.  Given the evidence that suggests high risk factors and prevalence of CVD among Aboriginal people, it is important to improve collection of CVD data, including CVD statistics among Aboriginal women.

First Nations

The CVD rate in First Nations adults is high (8%), and is more prevalent compared to the general Canadian adult population (6%).  The prevalence is particularly high among First Nations adults between 50-59 years of age (12%) [3].  The 2002/03 First Nations Regional Longitudinal Survey reported a higher CVD rate in First Nations women (8%), compared to men 7%, though this difference is not statistically significant. First Nations people have increased exposure to risk factors for CVD, such as cigarette smoking, diabetes, hypertension, and obesity [4,5]. These risk factors often cluster in First Nations people, further increasing their risk of developing CVD [5,6].


Data on CVD in the Métis population is limited. However, the high rate of diabetes, a risk factor for CVD, among Métis women and men [7], suggests the rate of CVD may also be high. Approximately 12% of the Métis population from British Columbia reported high blood pressure in the Aboriginal People’s Survey.


In the past, Inuit people have demonstrated low rates of CVD, which is likely due to the protective effects of their traditional lifestyle and diet. Recent shifts away from traditional foods and lifestyle have increased the risk factors for CVD among Inuit people, such as high blood pressure, diabetes, and obesity. As such, the rate of CVD among Inuit people is also on the rise [8, 9]. Improved data collection on CVD among Inuit people is needed to assess potential changes in CVD among the population.