War veterans dedicate many years to serving their nation, but regrettably, conflict doesn’t come without repercussions. Many soldiers desire to lead successful lives after their service. As a veteran, these later years can be some of the happiest decades of your life. You might also be more confident and patient. However, due to increased exposure to asbestos, gunpowder, and severe weather during wartime, you may experience health issues such as chronic illnesses, depression, and anxiety later in life.
Granted, failure to take care of your health may turn you into a cranky old adult living in a country house tucked far away in the woods. However, there is still time for a fresh start. Even as a veteran, you can develop a few habits that will help you live a long and healthy life. This article will highlight how you can maintain a healthy lifestyle as a war veteran after leaving active duty.
Tip # 1: Identify potential ailments and seek help right away.
The U.S armed forces were exposed to asbestos fibers throughout much of the 20th century, placing them at high risk for lung diseases and asbestos-related cancer called mesothelioma.
As the symptoms of the disease begin to appear 20-50 years after the exposure, you might not have realized it back then. Also, the signs vary depending on where cancer occurs. See a doctor if you have any signs and symptoms that bother you persistently. Tell your doctor if you have been exposed to asbestos.
If and when diagnosed with mesothelioma veterans can seek financial and medical benefits from the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs (VA).
Tip # 2: Get frequent medical checkups.
Whether it’s monitoring weight or early diagnosis of highly worrisome cancers, there are numerous cases where regular medical checkups have saved lives.
During routine physicals, your doctor may also check for skin, mouth, thyroid, and genitals malignancies. Which tests are best for you and when you should start them depends on your personal and family history of cancer and the possibility of a genetic predisposition. Be sure to discuss them with your physician when you visit them.
According to multiple studies, men and women over the age of 45-50 should undergo cancer screening tests once every year, even if they don’t experience any symptoms. Moreover, veterans can also receive regular vaccinations to prevent infectious diseases.
Tip # 3: Eat healthily.
During service, war veterans were used to having their meals prepared by the military butler. They will likely have to manage cooking themselves once they are no longer on active service. Unfortunately, with old age, it’s easy to get into the habit of consuming fast food and takeaway.
If you’re a veteran looking to get your diet back on track, you should strive to eat a diet rich in fresh produce, whole grains, and lean protein while limiting your consumption of red and processed meats.
A well-balanced diet plan that includes lots of fruits, vegetables, and whole grains is advised to maintain excellent health. Additionally, increase your water intake as compared to other liquids. Frozen or processed foods should also be avoided, as they often have large amounts of sugar, salt, and bad fats, which may cause health issues like weight gain, high cholesterol levels, hypertension, etc.
Develop a habit of cooking meals at home. This will give you more control over the amount of oil and other sugary or fattening ingredients used in food preparation.
Tip # 4: Create a weekly workout schedule and stick to it.
Being physically healthy is essential to serving in the military. However, it’s common for veterans to slack off on their workout routines or stop altogether after leaving the military. In order to get back in shape, you should include at least 30 minutes of moderately intense physical activity each day. Research shows that regular exercise lowers the chance of developing chronic diseases, helps maintain a healthy weight, relieves stress, and increases longevity.
Walking, jogging, biking, swimming, and weightlifting are all excellent exercises for war veterans. These activities release our body’s natural painkillers known as endorphins that relieve pain, reduce stress, and improve your sense of well-being.
Tip # 5: Quit (or limit) drinking and smoking.
Many veterans find themselves drinking more alcohol than they did even before enlisting in the military. This is understandable, as drinking can be a way to cope with stress. However, drinking large amounts of alcoholcan lead to serious health complications—cancer, heart disease, and liver damage, to name a few!
While occasional drinking with friends or at a social event may be okay, excessive alcohol consumption is not a good idea, particularly when you aspire to lead a healthy life. Veterans should drink responsibly as well. This implies that they should refrain from getting behind the wheel of a car after drinking.
Smoking is another bad habit that veterans might have picked up during military service. Cigarettes, tobacco, and other nicotine-based products are harmful and damage nearly every organ in your body.
It’s never too late to break a bad habit. Many resources are available in the form of alcohol rehab options, nicotine replacement therapies, and behavioral counseling to help veterans fight alcoholism and tobacco addiction.
Tip # 6: Engage your body and mind.
Maintaining your physical and mental health does not mean engaging in hours of exercise or other physical activities. Instead, the focus should be on getting your body and mind ready to handle any unforeseen physical or mental situation that life throws your way. Practicing yoga and Tai Chi is a great place to start.
Yoga is known to provide many health benefits. It strengthens your body and mind, enabling you to respond to stress with a calm and relaxed attitude. Besides, yoga poses are considered very effective in correcting physical postures. Breathing techniques, too, reduce anxiety and depression.
Tai chi is another excellent exercise that combines deep breathing methods with slow, deliberate motions. For old veterans, it’s advisable to practice tai chi as it’s a gentle workout with little impact on the joints and muscles. Like yoga, doing tai chi regularly also:
- Helps you feel less sad.
- Gives you a calm, serene disposition.
- Builds both lower-body and upper-body strength and endurance.
- Improves your postural balance, flexibility, and agility.
Maintaining your fitness after leaving the military is just as hard as it is while serving. Fortunately, you can live a long, happy, and healthy life without making major changes to your current lifestyle. To ensure you stay fit, exercise regularly, eat nourishing food with the right proportions of proteins and leafy greens, manage your stress, and go for regular doctor visits. Good luck!