American Diabetes Month — Time to Take Action
Nearly one in four Veterans receiving care from VA has diabetes.
This is partly attributable to the older average age of Veterans compared to the general US population. Veterans should know all the risk factors listed in the box on the right.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention estimate that nearly 26 million people, or about 8 percent of the US population, have diabetes.
That includes about 11 million persons 65 and older, or about 27 percent of seniors.
In the United States, about one-in-four persons with diabetes are not aware that they have the condition.
While exact numbers are not available, it is likely that the number is lower for Veterans receiving regular VA primary care.
However, many Veterans of all ages are at risk for diabetes because of the high rate of obesity and those who are overweight, estimated at over 70 percent of Veterans receiving VA care.
“About one-in-four persons with diabetes are not aware that they have the condition.”
Weight Loss and Physical Activity
An individual does not have to achieve drastic weight loss. Losing about five percent of one’s weight will help.
In recent studies, a weight loss and exercise program was more effective than medication in both younger and older individuals. The medication was not effective in persons older than 60.
Additionally, persons with diabetes or at risk for diabetes should manage other conditions, such as hypertension or high lipid levels, appropriately, and if they have diabetes, they should be screened at regular intervals for early signs of kidney, foot or eye conditions.
Diabetes and Agent Orange
Diabetes mellitus type 2 is one of the diseases VA presumes is associated with exposure to herbicides, such as Agent Orange. Veterans who were exposed to Agent Orange do not have to prove a connection between their type 2 diabetes mellitus and military service to be eligible for VA benefits. Healthy eating habits and exercise can help prevent this chronic disease.
Diabetes — Top 10 Risks
November is American Diabetes Month, a nationwide campaign to encourage all Americans to know their risk for diabetes, and to take action steps to decrease their risk of developing diabetes. The top 10 key risk factors include:
- Family history of diabetes (First degree relative, such as parents or siblings)
- Member of a high-risk racial/ethnic group (African American, Hispanic American, Native American, Asian American, and Pacific Islander)
- Pre-diabetes (high fasting blood glucose — ask your doctor)
- Hypertension (high blood pressure)
- Low “good cholesterol” (HDL) and high triglycerides
- Presence of heart or other vascular disease
- Overweight or Obesity
- Women with polycystic ovarian syndrome
- History of gestational diabetes mellitus
- Very low physical activity
Fortunately, a person’s risk for diabetes can be markedly reduced by exercise and weight loss, as demonstrated by the Diabetes Prevention Program, a landmark study published in 2002
Other sources for important information include: National Institutes of Health (NIH) Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC)