Awareness of Post-Traumatic Stress and other combat-related mental disorders is stronger than ever, but the latest threat to the health of American veterans may come as more of a shock. As of 2015, 80 percent of the veterans treated at VA hospitals suffered from obesity. Experts are hurrying to find and treat the causes of this latest trend. Obesity can lead to a number of dangerous health disorders including heart and lung problems, circulatory dysfunction, and type II diabetes, a disease that over 20 percent of veterans now suffer from, Think Progress reports.
Despite the lack of an obvious connection between instances of PTSD and the growing number of obese veterans, experts believe the two could go hand-in-hand. A HealthDay News study suggests that people with PTSD are more likely to develop overeating habits than the average citizen, which may disproportionately affect veteran populations.
Additionally, members of the military are given little opportunity to learn about dietary planning and don’t often have the option to cook their own meals. Veterans therefore return from deployment without the skills necessary to maintain their own health through proper nutrition.
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According to some experts, however, all is not lost. In Portland, Oregon, the local arm of the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs is working hard to establish a nutrition education program that aims to allow veterans to learn the cooking skills and eating habits essential to obesity prevention.
The movement to improve the dietary habits of at-risk veterans improves their health and also leads to hugely positive lifestyle benefits, Oregon Public Broadcasting reports. Veterans taking part in VA sponsored cooking classes are experiencing the joy and therapeutic nature of creating delicious food for themselves as well as socializing with their peers.
Efforts like these education programs can’t change everything overnight. Contact local veterans support organizations or visit The Veterans Site to see what you can do now to help fight the growing obesity and diabetes crisis among vets.