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Agent Orange and Type 2 Diabetes: Take Charge of Your Health!

Agent Orange Newsletter: Information for Vietnam-era Veterans and their families.
 

Type 2 diabetes is common among older adults, including Vietnam Veterans. The Institute of Medicine of the National Academy of Sciences published a report “Veterans and Agent Orange: Herbicide/Dioxin Exposure and Type 2 Diabetes” in 2000. This report, and its 2002 and 2004 updates, found evidence of an association between exposure to herbicides and type 2 diabetes. Veterans who were potentially exposed to Agent Orange or other herbicides during military service do not have to prove a connection between their diabetes and service to be eligible to receive VA health care and disability compensation.

What is Type 2 Diabetes?

Type 2 diabetes is a chronic (lifelong) condition that keeps your body from turning food into energy. It may leave you feeling tired and run-down. Controlling your diabetes means making some changes that may be challenging at first. Controlling the level of sugar in your bloodstream is the key to managing your diabetes. Poorly controlled diabetes can result in complications including heart disease, kidney failure, vision loss, and damage to the nerves and blood vessels in your upper and lower extremities.

There are several other risk factors for type 2 diabetes including: being over 45 years of age, having a family history of diabetes (related to both lifestyle and genetic factors), not getting enough exercise, having unhealthy eating habits, being obese, and (in women) having had diabetes during pregnancy.

What should I do if I have Type 2 Diabetes?

Veteran exericising at a community gym.

There are several ways that you can reduce the impact of diabetes on your health, including:

  • Work on losing those extra pounds! Being overweight is the single biggest risk factor for developing type 2 diabetes
  • Exercise for at least 30 minutes a day
  • Eat a low-fat and high-fiber diet
  • Practice healthy living—this includes staying tobacco free, limiting alcohol consumption, and staying active

It is also important that you work closely with your VA Patient Aligned Care Team (or your medical provider) so that they know what matters to you and what your goals are for a healthy life. Together, you can come up with a treatment plan that works for you. In addition to the methods listed above, this might include taking certain medications, monitoring blood sugars, and taking care of any other medical conditions you may have.

VA Benefits for Veterans with Type 2 Diabetes

Veterans with type 2 diabetes who were exposed to herbicides during service may be eligible for disability compensation and VA health care as well as a number of other benefits, resources, and services. In addition, Veterans who served in areas where Agent Orange was sprayed may also be eligible for a free Agent Orange Registry health exam.

The resources available to Veterans who may have been exposed to Agent Orange and have developed type 2 diabetes later in life are designed to promote health and wellness.

Visit www.publichealth.va.gov/exposures/agentorange/ conditions/diabetes.asp to learn more about type 2 diabetes and how to take charge of your health today.