Navy veterans have dedicated years of their lives to serving our country, often making tremendous sacrifices along the way. During their time in the service, many were exposed to harsh conditions, stressful environments, and hazardous materials that can have lasting health effects. For example, until the 1970s, Navy ships used asbestos insulation, putting sailors at risk of developing mesothelioma and other asbestos-related diseases later in life.
While the rigors of military service can take a toll, there are many steps Navy veterans can take to maintain good health and fitness after their time in the armed forces. Making positive lifestyle choices, taking advantage of healthcare services, and connecting with fellow veterans can help improve well-being and quality of life. Here are six ways Navy veterans can stay healthy and fit:
Regular Health Check-ups
Routine health check-ups and screenings are essential for early detection and prevention of health issues, especially those that may affect veterans, such as mesothelioma, which is a significant concern for Navy veterans. For Navy veterans who may have been exposed to asbestos during their service, mesothelioma screenings, and awareness are essential to ensure early detection and appropriate medical care.
Many veterans downplay their health issues or avoid doctors due to stoicism or reluctance to admit vulnerability. However, attempting to tough it out often allows minor problems to escalate into major ones. Establishing care with primary care doctors, specialists, mental health providers, and the VA system provides you with resources that you can leverage when diagnosed with a health issue.
- Don’t Skip Appointments: Schedule regular check-ups with healthcare professionals. These appointments can help monitor your health and address any concerns. Also, other resources like Mesothelioma Hope for mesothelioma navy veterans recommend keeping up with regular appointments with doctors.
- Screenings: Discuss with your healthcare provider about appropriate screenings based on your age, gender, and medical history.
- Veterans’ Healthcare Benefits: If you’re eligible for veterans’ healthcare benefits, make sure you are aware of the services available to you.
And don’t hesitate to ask questions and discuss all health concerns. Being proactive helps conditions get accurately diagnosed and treated as early as possible. Your well-being is worth the effort.
Get Preventive Care
Getting regular preventive healthcare allows doctors to detect potential issues early on when they are most treatable. Preventive care may include colonoscopies, mammograms, skin checks, prostate exams, bone density scans, and more, depending on individual risks. Veterans can access preventive care either through the VA health system or private healthcare providers.
Keeping up with recommended screenings and tests on schedule is critical to maintaining health as you age. Detecting conditions such as cancers, heart disease, diabetes, and others early on gives the best chance for effective treatment and positive outcomes. Don’t skip or delay preventive care appointments, even if you feel healthy. Minor problems are easier to treat when found early.
Unmanaged stress can severely harm mental and physical health over time. Navy veterans may deal with PTSD, anxiety, depression, and other mental health issues.
Effective stress management techniques include meditation, yoga, deep breathing exercises, and writing a journal. Try to set aside time each day for hobbies, relaxation, and social connections as well. Interacting with friends, family, and pets can help calm the mind while getting out into nature for a walk or hike can also relieve stress.
If feelings of stress or anxiety become overwhelming or if you struggle to cope, don’t hesitate to seek professional help. Meeting with a mental health counselor or therapist can provide the needed support.
Getting stress under control through lifestyle changes, therapy, medication, or other treatments can greatly support overall mental and physical well-being.
Stay Socially Engaged
Humans are social creatures by nature. Maintaining strong interpersonal relationships and community engagement is critical for emotional health and happiness. Isolation and loneliness can negatively impact mood and well-being over the long term.
Navy veterans, especially those struggling with PTSD or depression, are at high risk of becoming socially isolated. Making an effort to regularly connect in person with close friends, family members, and other veterans provides a sense of camaraderie, understanding, meaning, and purpose.
Additionally, make an effort to attend community events, join a veteran’s support group, or volunteer for a meaningful cause. Supporting each other through shared experiences helps veterans transition to civilian life.
While video chats and social media can supplement in-person connection, they don’t replace it. Humans need physical community and social bonds for optimal wellness.
Avoid Unhealthy Habits
Many veterans transitioning back to civilian life face unique challenges and pressures that can make them susceptible to adopting harmful habits. The stress of readjusting to society, traumatic memories from service, or feelings of isolation might push some veterans toward unhealthy coping mechanisms.
Harmful habits such as smoking, heavy alcohol consumption, recreational drug use, and emotional eating can all take a major toll over time. Reducing or quitting these unhealthy habits can significantly benefit long-term health and wellness.
Consider making lifestyle changes to break free from these unhealthy patterns. For those who smoke, start by setting a quit date and consult your doctor about nicotine replacement options. If you drink alcohol excessively, limit it to 1-2 drinks per day at most and have several alcohol-free days weekly. Reach out to support groups, therapists, or addiction treatment specialists if you struggle to make these changes on your own, and focus on replacing unhealthy behaviors with new, healthier habits. The effort to create positive change will greatly improve your physical and mental health and overall quality of life.
Connect with Fellow Veterans
Bonding and socializing with fellow veterans who share common experiences can provide immense comfort and support. It helps to connect with others who genuinely understand what military life is like and the unique challenges veterans face.
Consider attending community events, meetings, or social gatherings to meet other former service members. You can also join a group for veterans interested in volunteering, recreation, professional networking, or socializing. The camaraderie of fellow veterans aids in the transition to civilian life. Listening to each other’s stories, enjoying activities together, and supporting each other through challenges are all part of a meaningful connection.
The journey of a Navy veteran doesn’t end with their service to our nation. It continues into civilian life, and it’s essential to prioritize health and fitness to ensure a fulfilling and vibrant future. While Navy veterans may face unique challenges, they also have access to a range of resources and support. Navy veterans have dedicated their lives to protecting our nation, and they deserve to enjoy their post-service years to the fullest. By taking proactive steps to prioritize their health and fitness, Navy veterans can continue to thrive and make the most of their well-deserved retirement years.