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Department of Veterans Affairs researchers are locked in battle with an enemy that is quietly maiming and killing thousands of Americans who have served their country.

It’s not posttraumatic stress, depression or traumatic brain injury.

The Culprit

“Type 2 diabetes is at epidemic proportions among the Veteran population,” noted Dr. Tim O’Leary, acting director of VA’s Office of Research and Development. “It affects nearly 20 percent of Veterans who use the VA health care system, compared to 8.3 percent of the general population. This means that diabetes — and with it, the risk of heart disease, stroke, blindness, renal disease and amputation — affects more than one million Veterans at any given time.”

To make matters worse, millions of people don’t even realize they have the disease, since it can start out so subtly.

“This is of tremendous concern for us at VA,” O’Leary said, “and why we’re doing research that not only helps Veterans avoid developing diabetes in the first place, but also helps them avoid developing those several other conditions I just mentioned.”

The physician noted that VA already has an extensive research portfolio when it comes to diabetes, and is adding to it all the time.

What are some of the risk factors of diabetes?

  • Family history of diabetes
  • Being overweight
  • Being over age 40
  • Have had gestational diabetes
  • Not enough physical activity

 

A Weighty Issue

“Let me tell you about a few of the hundreds of studies we have underway,” O’Leary said. “Many of our researchers are studying weight management, since being overweight or obese are significant risk factors for developing diabetes and are also epidemic among the Veteran population. Approximately three-quarters of Veterans are overweight,” he observed, “and nearly 40 percent are obese.”

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