People of Métis origin are at 25 per cent higher risk of stroke than other Manitobans, according to a study by the Manitoba Métis Federation and the University of Manitoba.

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Factors such as smoking and diabetes lead to higher risk of stroke. ((CBC))

Dr. Judy Bartlett co-lead the study and found Métis have a number of risk factors.

"High blood pressure, smoking rates are higher, there's some issues with alcohol, of course there are more people with diabetes. So these things are all affiliated with stroke."

The higher stroke rate is driven by a 53 percent higher smoking rate, 34 percent higher rate of diabetes, and 13 percent higher rate of high blood pressure among Metis aged 40 years and older, compared to all other Manitobans.

"Being historically of both First Nation and European ancestries, but not really identifying as either one, Métis are a very unique people, but little research has been done on this population," said Bartlett.

'It is clear that stroke and related conditions are even more significant issues for Manitoba Métis than for all other residents in the province' —Heart & Stroke Foundation

The study linked the MMF membership list and several Canadian Community Health Survey cycles with Manitoba Health's hospital records throughout the province to create the Métis Population Data-Base, a one-of-a-kind registry of the 73,000 Métis in the province.

"Despite universal health care, it is clear that stroke and related conditions are even more significant issues for Manitoba Métis than for all other residents in the province," the study says. Bartlett calls it a watershed study because the health of the Métis has never been studied in such detail before. She says the study may help create programs to address the problem. "It's going to need a lot more attention with programs to try to decrease this because it does have a high mortality rate."

"Aboriginal people are twice as likely to die from stroke than the general Canadian population," says Heart and Stroke Foundation spokesperson Dr. Michael Hill. "They are more likely to have high blood pressure and type 2 diabetes, putting First Nations, Inuit and Metis people at an even greater risk of stroke than the general population."

He says that culturally appropriate prevention strategies and novel health-care solutions will improve outcomes. "Awareness of how to control risk factors such as high blood pressure, obesity, physical activity, diabetes, and smoking is essential."