Veterans comprise 6.4% of the U.S. population, according to a 2021 census. They are the oldest age group, with 49% over 65. As they navigate the journey of aging, the government does its best to support them with the most extensive integrated healthcare system. It caters to millions of veterans, with 172 VA Medical Centers. However, as an aging veteran, your health is in your hands. While the VA is here to assist you, the following choices also impact your well-being.
Getting routine checkups is essential for identifying potential health concerns and providing prompt care. If you are over 65, you should get a screening test every three years to detect underlying health conditions early. These tests are crucial for older adults because they are 11 times likelier to develop cancer. On the bright side, regular health screenings can detect fatal diseases during early stages and improve health outcomes.
In cases of lung cancers like mesothelioma, around 46% of stage 1 patients can survive two years. In comparison, patients in stage 4 usually live for around one year. Though this disease is incurable, early detection can still help you gain timely treatment to increase comfort. Unfortunately, veterans are most susceptible to infection. They make up barely 8% of the total population in the country. Yet, they comprise 30% of approximately 3,000 Americans who die from mesothelioma yearly. (source)
This vulnerability is primarily due to the military sanctioning the use of asbestos, a cancer-inducing substance, between the 1930s and 1980s. Though the use of asbestos stopped in the late 1970s, the adverse effects still remain today. States like Texas are most affected by this issue, ranking 5th in America for asbestos-related deaths. However, it also has the 2nd highest number of veterans and multiple VA centers for veterans that offer support to asbestos victims. Suppose you or your loved one has been diagnosed with mesothelioma. In that case, contacting these support centers can connect you with doctors and lawyers to help you get justice. Mesothelioma victims can pursue settlement by filing a lawsuit to pay for the damage and potential treatments. These professionals can help build your case, represent you in court, and provide possible treatment plans to ensure your comfort.
These heart-wrenching cases of mesothelioma victims highlight the importance of regular health screenings. As a veteran, you are more vulnerable to such illnesses, so getting regular tests can not only extend your lifespan but also help you pursue justice.
Healthy eating habits
As you age, you experience changes in your appetite and diet. You may prefer to eat fewer meals and snacks throughout the day. However, it’s okay if you eat less meals. Instead, focus on the nutrients by implementing the following habits:
- Eating more fruits and vegetables
- Having oatmeal for breakfast
- Consume low-fat dairy products
- Avoiding foods with high sodium and added sugar
- Consuming protein
- Drink plenty of water
- Limit alcohol
If you need help to prepare meals and eat on time, you can ask your family and loved ones for support. Join cooking groups or cook dinner with your children. Your body needs essential nutrients now more than ever. The better you eat, the more energized you’ll feel.
Good sleep hygiene
Studies suggest that older people have a harder time sleeping deeply. You may wake up on average 3 to 4 times at night and have trouble going back to sleep. This is why you may still feel fatigued after sleeping enough hours. When these problems stay consistent, they can even lead to sleeping disorders.
Around 50% of adults report experiencing symptoms of insomnia. However, this problem is not a natural by-product of aging. Unfortunately, you are likelier to have sleep issues as an aging veteran. According to a 2022 study on veterans, around 57.2% had insomnia. These issues can be due to old-age pains or trouble adjusting to home. Still, you can have a better sleep cycle if you have better habits before going to bed by taking the following measures:
- Create a cozy and calming sleeping environment
- Avoid using technology at least one or two hours before bed
- Try meditating before sleeping to develop a calm mindset
- Go to bed and wake up at a fixed time every day
- Drink a warm glass of milk to induce sleep
- Do not consume caffeine before bed
- Avoid taking multiple naps throughout the day
- Listen to soothing music to help you relax
Though developing these habits may take a while, you should keep trying until you can get uninterrupted rest. However, if you keep waking up in the middle of the night, try reading a book or listening to music until you feel the need to sleep again. Setting good sleep hygiene is essential to maintain your physical and mental health. It gives you energy and alleviates stress. A good night’s rest also boosts your mood and reduces symptoms of depression.
41% of veterans struggle with mental health, which can also affect their physical health. As an aging veteran, it is crucial to maintain your mental well-being as much as your physical health. It would be best to spend your retirement age with family and loved ones doing what you enjoy. You can go on boating trips, try new hobbies, and host barbeques.
Optimism is essential to viewing your aging process positively and living a happier life. Studies even suggest that older adults who have a brighter outlook toward aging live 7.5 years longer than those who don’t. Your attitude can make a huge difference, so prioritize your mental peace and live your best life.
With old age comes fatigue that can cause you to lead a sedentary life. This lack of movement can increase the risk of developing chronic health conditions like Obesity. It is a prevalent issue in America, especially for the older population, who are more susceptible to it. They are likelier to be obese than younger adults, as 41% of adults older than 60 are obese. On the other hand, obesity prevalence is 39% for people younger than 39.
This weight gain is even more prominent in veterans who become overweight quickly because of the drastic decrease in physical activity. The VA also predicted that 78% of vets were overweight or obese, which can be a considerable health risk for you. Consider engaging in light exercise for at least 150 minutes weekly to avoid these health complications. Go for a brisk walk, join a swimming class, or do morning yoga. Daily physical activities can keep you energetic and reduce the chances of strokes, heart disease, or diabetes.
You have fulfilled your duty to your country, but now it’s time to prioritize yourself. Your age reflects your resilience, and may you continue your display of strength by living a healthy life. You deserve rest and happiness. So, here’s to embracing old age with grace, dignity, and bravery.