Individuals who serve in the military services face health issues that are more extensive and nuanced than those faced by the general population. Both frontline soldiers and support staff may be subjected to various hazards for extended periods.
While some army veterans of the U.S. military forces use the Veteran’s Health Administration services, the rest of them get all their medical treatment from the private sector, where nurses and other medical staff may lack proper training in looking after veterans.
However, the good news is that military veterans can live a healthy lifestyle by managing certain things themselves. All they have to do is to introduce the following measures to their routine:
1. Get Moving
We cannot stress the importance of physical activity enough. Among other things, physical activity reduces the risk of developing chronic diseases, improves blood flow, and boosts muscle strength. It is worth mentioning that you do not have to sign up for any fancy gym memberships.
You may undertake something as easy as going for brisk walks to get started. If you have not been physically active for a long time, start with achievable goals, such as walking for 10-15 minutes a day. Gradually increase the duration as you feel more comfortable.
If you have a serious illness, talk to your doctor before beginning any fitness routine. For example, many veterans who served U.S. Army between the 1930s to 1980s were exposed to asbestos in army barracks. As a result, many of them developed severe medical conditions. You should consult a qualified healthcare expert if you have any such health issues. They will help you devise the best health and fitness routine!
2. Eat a Healthy Diet
You should not make any major dietary adjustments at the outset. Try implementing one small change at a time.
Consider swapping out one of your morning white-bread slices for a slice of whole-grain toast. Replace low-fat popcorn with potato chips and other high-fat salty snacks. The federal government has instructed food producers to mention detailed nutritional information on their product labels. By carefully reading ingredient lists, you may be able to make more nutrient-conscious decisions.
Be sure to keep your water intake high all day, even if you are not feeling thirsty. You can drink anything from water to fat-free milk or 100 percent juice to keep yourself hydrated. Ideally, veterans over 65 should aim for at least 57.5 fluid ounces of water daily.
3. Build a Support Network
Humans have a built-in need for companionship and social interaction. People may be happier, healthier, and live longer when their interactions with loved ones (blood relatives, friends, coworkers, or romantic partners) are positive and mutually beneficial. Therefore, it is a must to invest time and energy into developing positive relationships with the individuals in your life.
Here are some steps veterans can take to build a supportive network:
- Join community groups: Participate in community activities, clubs, or sports teams that align with your interests. Engaging in shared hobbies and interests can lead to meaningful connections with like-minded individuals.
- Utilize social media forums: Online platforms offer a safe space for veterans to connect with others across the globe. Join Facebook groups or LinkedIn networks to engage in discussions and make connections.
- Attend workshops: Look for workshops related to veteran support. These events often attract individuals with similar goals and can lead to valuable networking opportunities.
4. Give Sleep Top Priority
It is important to get sufficient rest. On top of that, getting enough shut-eye strengthens your immune system, which enables your body to fend off a slew of illnesses. Sticking to a sleep pattern of 7.5 to 9 hours every night has been shown to help people operate at their peak. Set a regular time to go to sleep; it will notify your brain and body when it is time to wind down.
Be sure not to use electronic devices for at least an hour before going to bed. It is because electronic devices emit blue light, which has a higher frequency and short wavelength compared to other colors in the light spectrum. It can interfere with the body’s natural production of melatonin and trick the brain into thinking it is still daytime, making it harder to fall asleep.
5. Leverage Meditation
Meditating for even a brief period every day can have positive effects on mental health. For instance, several studies have revealed that meditating can drastically decrease the likelihood that you will go into a downward spiral of stress and despair that ultimately leads to depression.
Come up with a fixed time and stick to it in the long run. For most people, meditating first thing in the morning yields the best results. If you are not a morning person, you can still reap the benefits of meditation by doing it right after work or before retiring to bed.
6. Seek out Expert Assistance
According to credible studies, serving in the military is associated with high risks for mental health issues, including post-traumatic stress disorder and major depressive disorder. It suggests that some of the challenges that military members face are best dealt with by seeing a mental health expert.
The highest form of self-care is talking to a trained mental health practitioner. After returning from deployment or military service, some service members find it difficult to adjust back into civilian life. Talking to a mental health expert can help you get connected to useful services and give you a safe space to process your issues.
Military veterans should make time for self-care, including mental and physical health. The internet is peppered with both effective and ineffective strategies for dealing with post-deployment trauma, pain, and stress. To make life easier for you and save you from doing the legwork, we have done all the heavy lifting and put together the best possible practices to maintain optimal health.