updated 2/26/2006 5:22:59 PM ET 2006-02-26T22:22:59

Aging veterans are getting reinforcements in their fight against the twin threats of obesity and diabetes.

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The Veterans Affairs and Health and Human Services departments were launching the “HealthierUS Veterans” campaign on Monday to promote nutrition, exercise, education, preventive medicine and weight loss.

The VA says that of the 7.5 million veterans receiving its health benefits, more than 70 percent are obese and one out of five have diabetes. Diabetes can lead to high blood pressure, heart disease, stroke, blindness and amputations.

According to a VA news release, 7 percent of the U.S. population suffers from diabetes. The fact that veterans seem to be a much higher risk group doesn’t sit well with VA Secretary Jim Nicholson.

“This doesn’t have to be,” Nicholson said. “I feel we have a responsibility to better educate our veterans.”

As part of the new program, VA doctors will give out “prescriptions for health” to patients after measuring their body mass index, a measure of body fat. The prescriptions will list exercises and nutritional information that match patients’ health needs.

Other components of the program include a “Fit for Life Volunteer Corps,” a group of veterans dedicated to setting a good health example for others, and a weight management program called “MOVE!”

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