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VA Rolls Out New Diabetes Prevention Tool


Diabetes is a near epidemic among veterans according to data from the Department of Veterans Affairs. Nearly one in every four veterans has diabetes, says Dr. Linda Kinsinger, the chief consultant for preventative medicine at the VA.

That’s why the Department is rolling out a pilot program aimed at getting ahead of the problem. The new VA Diabetes Prevention Program works with veterans who are at risk for developing diabetes, but whose diabetes risk can still be controlled through proper nutrition and exercise. The program is part of a larger effort by the Center for Disease Control. If successful, the program could help the VA save a significant amount of money in treating diabetic veterans.

Overall, the cost of diabetes treatment costs Americans more than $172 billion each year, according to the American Diabetes Association. Further, diabetes results in medical costs that are on average 2.3 times what the same costs would be in the absence of diabetes, according to the ADA.

The VA’s Diabetes Prevention Program will be offered to volunteers. They will receive counseling for nutrition and weight loss through MOVE!, the VA’s program for weight management. Participating veterans will receive help setting goals for weight loss and physical activity.

Symptoms of Diabetes

According to the ADA, these are the symptoms of potential Type 1 Diabetes:

  • Frequent urination
  • Unusual thirst
  • Extreme hunger
  • Unusual weight loss
  • Extreme fatigue and irritability

Type II diabetes symptoms include each of the above, plus the following:

  • Frequent infections
  • Blurred vision
  • Cuts and bruises that are slow to heal
  • Tingling or numbness in feet and hands

In many cases, individuals with diabetes will have no symptoms. The American Diabetes Association has an easy online tool to help you assess your risk of diabetes.

Your risk is elevated if you are obese, if you are African-American, and if you are male. Low physical activity levels also contribute to your risk, as does a family history of diabetes.

Prediabetes

The VA’s Diabetes Prevention Program specifically targets veterans who have been diagnosed as pre-diabetic. That is, lab results have come back indicating that the patient is already on the road to developing diabetes. Blood glucose levels may be higher than normal, for example, but may not have crossed the diagnostic threshold to qualify as a formal diabetes diagnosis. About 11 percent of those with prediabetes will develop type 2 diabetes each year.

Individuals with prediabetes also have a 50 percent increased risk of stroke and heart disease. High blood pressure, smoking and high cholesterol all also contribute to your risk.

Intervention at this stage is critical: According to the American Diabetes Association, research indicates that 30 minutes of moderate exercise each day, plus losing 7 percent of your body weight – 14 pounds for a 200 pound individual – results in a 58 percent reduction in the risk of developing type 2 diabetes.

The ADA also recommends anyone who is overweight and age 45 or older get checked for prediabetes at each routine check-up.

The program is still only a pilot, and therefore not universally available. Participating VA medical centers in Minneapolis, Baltimore, Los Angeles and Ann Arbor are accepting a limited number of program members. However, you can still get help with your weight loss effort via MOVE!. Weight loss is the primary method of treating prediabetes. And almost any large health care system will offer some kind of diabetes intervention problem. That means you don’t have to wait for the VA to set up a program in your area to take action to protect yourself and your health.


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