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Miami VA Healthcare System

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Hope for the Journey - Diabetes Research at VA

Miami VA Research performing glucose testing

VA Medical Center looked at whether glucose control affected the rate of cardiovascular disease in those with the disease.

Wednesday, November 3, 2010

Washington, DC, November 01, 2010 /PRNewswire/ — Group visits, telemedicine, peer counseling, and Internet-based education and case management are among the innovative strategies Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) researchers are studying to increase access to care and improve the health outcomes of Veterans and others with diabetes.

VA researchers are seeking better ways to prevent and treat diabetes, especially in special populations including the elderly, minorities, those with amputations or spinal cord injuries, and those with kidney or heart disease.

Diabetes is a serious chronic disease in which the body cannot produce or properly use insulin. The disease affects about 16 million Americans, including more than 800,000 Veterans receiving care from VA.

Much of VA’s research focuses on controlling the risk of cardiovascular disease in patients with type 2 diabetes, which is by far the most common type. For example, researchers at the Atlanta VA Medical Center are working to stave off progression of the condition before it reaches a full-blown stage. “I think (this project has) extended my life,” says Veteran Roger Parton, a participant in this research study.

In another important area of diabetes-related study—vision health—VA and its research partners have demonstrated that Veterans could be accurately tested for an eye disease called diabetic retinopathy using a method not requiring eye dilation. This new efficient and accurate eye test is helping reduce the risk of blindness in Veterans with diabetes throughout VA’s health care system, and the program is now being expanded to evaluate some other important causes of vision loss.

In yet another study that changed the face of diabetes care, researchers at the Miami VA Medical Center looked at whether glucose control affected the rate of cardiovascular disease in those with the disease. This seven-year trial found little reduction in the risk of stroke, heart attack, and other cardiovascular complications, compared with standard treatment. In light of the results of this study and others, major health organizations such as the American Diabetes Association issued new treatment guidance for doctors and patients.

Additional recent advances in VA diabetes research include:
• Promising studies on the connection between insulin resistance—the hallmark of type 2 diabetes—and Alzheimer’s disease.
• A determination that, in some people, chromosome 12p is a likely site of genes associated with high triglycerides (a condition closely linked to diabetes, as well as obesity and heart disease).
• Studies finding that walking on a treadmill can prevent and even reverse diabetes in chronic stroke patients.

“This kind of diabetes research is advancing the type of care we’re able to give Veterans,” notes Jennifer Marks, MD, chief of endocrinology at the Miami VA Medical Center and the VA Diabetes Trial’s principal investigator. “The care we provide gets better because of research.” For additional information on diabetes for Veterans, their families, and providers, go to For more information on how VA research is improving Veterans’ lives, go to

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