VA Offering New Diabetes Treatment

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Are you one of the nearly 1.5 million veterans being treated by the VA for type 2 diabetes? If so, the Department of Veterans Affairs is offering free access to an online specialty clinic providing diabetes management strategies.

VA says they will offer a "limited number of veterans" up to one year of free treatment with the Virta online treatment program. This program usually costs over $350 per month.

The Virta program offers dietary guidance, coaching, access to medical specialists and peer support as part of its individualized treatment program.

The main focus of Virta's online program is controlling diabetes through diet, specifically the ketogenic or "keto" diet. This very low-carbohydrate diet has been shown to help people burn fat more easily than other methods. More than 50 percent of veterans receiving medical care from the VA are overweight or obese, data shows.

Reducing body fat has been proven to help patients reduce or eliminate their insulin usage and lower their Hemoglobin A1C, or HbA1c, which measures glucose in the blood. Nearly 60 percent of participants in the Virta program had reversed their type 2 diabetes within one year of beginning treatment, program leaders say.

Unlike traditional healthcare, where patients only check in with their provider a couple of times a year, the Virta program provides 24/7 monitoring and care from their team of board-certified providers providing around-the-clock monitoring and care. They work in tandem with VA physicians to monitor veterans' conditions, adjusting medications as necessary and developing an individualized care plan.

The program provides veterans with tools to track their progress, including a body-weight scale that uploads data to the app automatically, a blood pressure cuff for some patients, and a meter with glucose and ketone strips, lancets, and swabs.

"Many veterans have trouble managing their diabetes and blood sugar, and many struggle with their weight and sticking to any diet," Dr. Laurence J. Meyer, chief officer of VA specialty care services, said in a statement. "This leads to a lot of functional limitations. This partnership is potentially a way that some veterans might benefit from this care on an individual basis."

VA also offers diabetes management services including diet counseling, weight loss programs, blood glucose monitoring, and other medical care both through telehealth programs as well as traditional medical means.

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