According to the VA, more than 35% of all adults in the U.S. are obese (body mass index [BMI] > 30). Unfortunately, veterans’ rates trend slightly higher at 40%, and up to 70% of veterans are considered overweight. Patients who are obese are at higher risks for heart disease, type 2 diabetes mellitus (T2DM), stroke, hypertension, and even some forms of cancer.
The data concerning diabetes mellitus (DM) paint a worse picture. About 8% of the U.S. population has a form of DM, according to the CDC. The VA estimates 1 in 4 veterans has some form of DM—more than triple the general population. It can be argued that the older patient population within the VA influences this rate. When looking only at senior citizens within the U.S., the DM rate jumps to about 27%. However, some veterans can attribute their DM to hazards encountered during service. Type 2 DM is associated with exposure to herbicides, such as Agent Orange, and does not require veterans to prove a service connection to be eligible for VA benefits.