Post-Retirement Health and Lifestyle Tips for Veterans
After serving years in the military, imagine one day you wake up, and it’s time to retire. You have served your country faithfully for many years, and now it’s time to enjoy your well-earned retirement. But what does that mean for your health and lifestyle?
In the US, the average life expectancy is 78 years, but for veterans, it’s slightly lower at 67 years. This difference is likely due to the increased risk of health problems associated with military services, such as post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), depression, and anxiety.
There are also lifestyle factors that can impact your health in retirements, such as a sedentary lifestyle, poor nutrition, and substance abuse.
That’s why you must be proactive about your health and lifestyle in retirement. Here are some tips to help you stay healthy and happy in retirement:
- Get regular checkups and screenings.
Just because you’re retired doesn’t mean you don’t need to see a doctor regularly. In fact, it’s even more important to get regular checkups and screenings in retirement, as your risk of developing health problems increases with age.
Schedule regular appointments with your primary care physician, and don’t forget about essential screenings, such as mammograms and colonoscopies.
Also, depending on where you’ve served and your exposure to various hazards and chemicals, you may be eligible for free or reduced-cost health screenings and counseling.
You can also opt for cancer screenings to be sure you’re staying on top of any potential health risks. Mesothelioma, for example, is a type of cancer caused by asbestos exposure, and it can take decades to develop. If you were exposed to asbestos during your military service, you must be aware of the risks and get screened regularly. Veterans and mesothelioma have a strong connection, and resources are available to help veterans get the treatment they need.
- Eat a healthy diet.
What you eat dramatically impacts your health, so it’s vital to ensure you resume eating a healthy diet even after retirement. Be sure to include plenty of fruits, vegetables, and whole grains, and limit processed foods, saturated fats, and sugary drinks.
If you need help planning and preparing healthy meals, many resources are available, such as cookbooks, websites, and apps. And, if you’re on a budget, don’t worry – there are plenty of healthy, affordable foods to pick from. However, if you have specific dietary needs or restrictions, talk to a registered dietitian to ensure you get the necessary nutrients.
- Get active and stay active.
Regular physical activity is essential for maintaining your physical and mental health. Research shows that even small amounts of physical activity can have significant health benefits. And, it’s never too late to start being active.
There are many ways to get active, and it doesn’t have to be expensive or time-consuming. For example, you can take a brisk walk around your neighborhood, go for a swim, or join a local gym. And, if you’re looking for some company, there are plenty of recreational and social activities available through community organizations, senior centers, and veterans’ groups.
- Quit smoking.
If you smoke, now is the time to quit. Smoking is the leading cause of preventable death in the US, and it’s a significant risk factor for many diseases, including cancer, heart disease, and stroke.
Smoking has become less socially acceptable in recent years, so it may be easier to quit than you think. You can also get help from your doctor, nicotine replacement products, and prescription medications.
- Limit your alcohol intake.
Drinking alcohol in moderation is generally safe, but limiting your intake is necessary. Drinking too much alcohol can increase your risk of health problems like liver disease, cancer, and heart disease. Another reason to limit your alcohol intake is that it can interact with many medications, making them less effective. Moreover, alcohol can worsen certain health conditions, such as diabetes. Alcohol also affects your ability to think clearly and make sound decisions – something that’s especially important as you age.
- Manage your stress.
Retirement can be stressful for many people, so finding ways to manage your stress is crucial. There are many healthy coping mechanisms, such as exercise, relaxation techniques, and social support.
Stress is your body’s response to anything that requires a physical, mental, or emotional adjustment. It’s a normal part of life, but too much stress can negatively affect your health. In comparison, acute stress is a normal response to a short-term event, such as an upcoming deadline. While acute stress can be beneficial in small doses, it can become harmful if it’s chronic. Chronic stress can lead to high blood pressure, heart disease, and mental health problems.
- Get enough sleep.
Sleep is vital for your physical and mental health. It helps your body repair and regenerates and gives your brain a chance to rest and process information. Most adults need seven to eight hours of sleep per night.
If you have trouble sleeping, there are many things you can do to improve your sleep habits. For example, you can establish a regular sleep schedule, avoid caffeine and alcohol before bed, and create a relaxing bedtime routine.
- Stay connected.
Social isolation and loneliness can negatively affect your health, so staying connected with family and friends is necessary. There are many ways to stay connected, such as phone calls, text messages, social media, and video chat. You can also stay connected by joining social clubs, volunteering, and attending religious or spiritual gatherings. Besides giving you a sense of purpose, social activities can also help improve your mental and physical health. Moreover, they can provide much-needed support during difficult times.
The more we learn about health and aging, the more we realize that retirement is just another phase of life that can be healthy and enjoyable. These tips can help you maintain your health and well-being in retirement. However, it’s important to remember that everyone is different, so talk to your doctor about what’s right for you.