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Health After Military Service – Written by Emily Walsh

Veterans Day: Health After Military Service

Everyone who has ever signed up to serve in any branch of the U.S. Armed Forces realizes quite quickly that he or she becomes G.I. (Government Issue) before the signature dries on the enlistment papers. Yes, there are plenty of safeguards in the service to protect personnel. When it comes right down to it though, those who have served know they may have been exposed to things that can pose a health risk later on in life. It could be anything from self-caused exposure to health risks such as tobacco use or exposure to asbestos, which can cause mesothelioma cancer.

A Centers for Disease Control report indicates that a third of males who have served report one or more chronic health problems as opposed to one fourth of men who have never served in the military. It actually makes sense for both men and women in the military. Young men and women embarking into a realm of high stress service can lead to exposures to substances and lifestyle choices that could cause harm later in life. The good news is that for many of the diseases, it does not have to continue.

Type 2 diabetes and high blood pressure are two chronic diseases that can be controlled or stopped entirely with lifestyle choices. In the service, personnel often cannot make or do not choose the healthiest foods among the options available. Also while deployed on active duty, the amount of calories needed to get through the day are usually much greater than what a service member will burn in civilian life. The food choices and high calorie content often follow service members into civilian life where weight gain begins almost immediately.

Weight gain leads to insulin resistance, which leads to high blood glucose levels. Excess weight also can lead to high blood pressure. The good news is that taking a close look at the types of food and the amount being consumed after returning to civilian life can lead to beneficial lifestyle changes. Another good thing is that those who served are used to challenges. The challenge now is to get back into a routine of burning calories and keeping muscle mass, and it can be done without putting 80 pounds of gear back on and double timing it through the desert.

Soldiers and sailors are some of the best problem solvers in the world. They have sacrificed a big portion of their lives to keep their country free. The command now is to get them all working to avoid chronic health issues long after their service years are up. Stop tobacco use now to avoid everything from emphysema to cancer later. Revisit that military mindset to get control of the calories and types of food in the daily diet. Go back to basic training to get those bodies fit for service.

Former military service men and women of all ages can do a lot on their own to halt the progression of chronic diseases that are plaguing those who served. Yes, it takes some discipline and commitment. However, those are two things those who have served know very well.