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5 Steps to Manage Your Health as a Veteran


About 19 million men and women collectively make up the US veteran population. As a veteran, you know that serving in the armed forces takes strength, agility, and stamina. Once you successfully get discharged, you can feel the after-effects of being in a war in your bones. Staying healthy following retirement is challenging. You may feel limited by your circumstances and may not feel motivated enough to take care of your health. But, for your sake, you must pay attention to your well-being.

There are also multiple resources at your service courtesy of the Department of Veteran Affairs. These may make it easier for you to manage your health. So, here are some guidelines you can follow to look after yourself adequately:

1. Look Into Healthcare Benefits and Insurance

The Department of Veterans Affairs has put several health programs in place to facilitate your well-being as a veteran. As long as you have an honorable discharge, you can qualify for these services depending on your condition. For example, some programs may give you access to a home aide, get inpatient care such as diagnosis, specialty care, and even dental checkups at the hand of a qualified doctor, and get your prescription pills on time.

In addition, you may also be eligible for veteran health insurance which also streamlines healthcare for you by subsidizing the cost and letting you visit prestigious hospitals to stay healthy. While there are numerous benefits you gain from these insurances, here are two worth mentioning:

  • My HealtheVet. Making your way to a pharmacy can be tedious, primarily if the institute is far away. Additionally, reading and discussing your prescriptions can be challenging if you can't recall your doctor's instructions. This is where MyHealthVet comes into play and allows you to get a refill, book a medical appointment and talk to your healthcare professional online from your home. Ultimately, you can consume all the necessary medications to get through the day.
  • Veteran Health Insurance Plan. If you need access to a primary caregiver or need immediate surgery, the VA health care is here to help. Doctors such as cardiologists, gynecologists, and mental health specialists are all available for you through this insurance. You can also access medical equipment and prosthetics at an affordable price by applying for them through the VA plan.

2. Go for Routine Checkup

Routine health checks and specialized care determine what spectrum your physical health occupies. Returning from service can leave you with disabilities, including inflammation in your joints, backaches, poorly healed fractured bones, and hearing loss. At the same time, you may also have chronic conditions like diabetes which you may not know about.

If you served back in the 1980s, you might also have mesothelioma, a rare and aggressive cancer. Even though it's understandable that these conditions may intimidate you, help is available. The sooner you see a general physician, the better you can get back on your feet. The routine checkup includes a head-to-toe assessment.

A doctor will check your blood pressure, recommend a lipid profile test for cholesterol and gauge your reflexes. If you have a severe health condition, you may get wheeled for additional tests and biopsies to deduce conclusively on your health. After a thorough examination, you may get a list of medications and dietary changes you may have to follow, and you cannot ignore your doctor's advice. The pills can help tone down swelling and water retention and reduce the pain in your body.

3. Learn About Your Mental Health

Mental health issues can weigh down and often prevent you from returning to your old routine. According to veterans, about 12 days every month, a sudden mental health episode impairs them from carrying out daily activities. If you're going through the same and experiencing severely nihilistic thoughts, feeling depressed and anxious, you need help. In addition, as a veteran, there is a high possibility you may suffer through extreme forms of PTSD, night terrors, and in some severe cases, bipolar disorder.

Returning from war is a painful endeavor, and the ghosts often follow. But through gentle guidance, medicated therapy, and conversations, you can find some solace. While mental health treatment is complicated and often extensive, the first step in this direction can help you immensely from where you were. However, before you get referred to a psychiatrist, you must get tested first.

The purpose of these tests is to determine how intense your condition is. For example, for testing PTSD, doctors have to follow The Diagnostic and Statistical Manual 5th Edition (DSM-5) to deduce your level. Next, you will get tested on your intrusive thoughts, including flashbacks, avoidance of remembering certain events, and sudden changes in your mood and behavior. For instance, you may start acting aggressively or react angrily. After a successful evaluation, you may get referred to a psychiatrist, sign up for counseling sessions, and get advised to take medication.

4. Improve Your Lifestyle

When you're part of any armed forces, you may be used to a routine. Coming back home may hold this challenging lifestyle, but you still need to follow a schedule to ensure your health always stays in good shape. An excellent medical practitioner can help you set realistic goals and health conditions to follow a reasonable timetable and provide you benefits. For instance, if you recently went through an amputation, you can learn about exercises that can keep you in shape without straining your body.

At the same time, if you have stopped exercising for a while, take it slow and build momentum. For example, you may want to develop your pace from walking before you start running. Meditation techniques like yoga also double as stretches to release tension from your lower back and prevent stress from accumulating. Tai chi is a Chinese martial arts technique that provides many health benefits, such as fixing your posture and letting your muscles relax.

If you're not sure you can handle exercises independently, try going to a gym and finding a trainer to help you out. Your diet also needs to improve significantly if you wish to maintain a healthy lifestyle. Let go of alcoholic beverages and find help for substance addiction. Change your dinner into low-fat, grilled meals with plenty of fruits, vegetables, and water on the side. Try snacking on dry nuts and granola bars to fill up on nutrients without letting your hard work on your physique go to waste.

5. Find a Veterans Support Group

On this journey of being a veteran, you're not alone. In comparison, you may feel isolated around friends and family who have never been in the army and feel troubled by their lack of shared experiences. Numerous veterans feel the same way you do and may form a support group. By joining, you can discuss your trauma, find resources that can help you cope, and learn about employment opportunities you can avail yourself of as a veteran.

These can help your emotional and mental well-being flourish, and instead of feeling misunderstood and segregated from your family, you will accept why they can't empathize. This breeds grounds for cultivating healthy relationships and allows you to work on yourself with your newly found knowledge. The path to healing is simply a group of like-minded individuals away.

Final Thoughts

There is no denying the services you provided as a veteran are irreplaceable and honorable. However, while protecting and serving your country, you may be left with scars that need immediate tending. Being a veteran is not easy. You have to work on yourself from scratch again. This includes getting a routine checkup and figuring out what aspects of your health struggle the most. Going through the different health insurances available to you makes it easier to match with a program that can provide you with the help you need. Even though getting treated and checked for mental health ailments may be painful, it can enable you to dim down the noise and focus on getting better.

A doctor alone cannot help you. There has to be some initiative on your part in a lifestyle change. This can be empowering and encourages you to reclaim your strength. You also don't have to fight your demons without a helping hand. Veteran support groups are for that purpose. By meeting other people impacted by the war, you can share thoughts and feelings, which you may generally keep bottled up. This leads to emotional and mental growth.

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