Written by Sarah Thebarge, Physician Assistant
Approximately 18 million veterans currently live in the U.S. At GoHealth Urgent Care, we’re proud to be in the VA’s Community Care Network, offering same-day illness and injury care to veterans 7 days a week, 365 days a year.
Here are tips that can help veterans stay as healthy as possible!
1. Stay up-to-date on vaccines.
One of the most important preventive measures you can take when it comes to your health is to stay current on your vaccines. Vaccines can prevent dozens of infections, including tetanus, pertussis (whooping cough), diphtheria, human papillomavirus (HPV), measles, mumps, rubella, and hepatitis.
Also, since living in close quarters increases the risk of contracting meningitis, it’s especially important for personnel living in military barracks to get the meningitis vaccine.
2. Address injuries as early as possible.
We know that many military personnel engage in physically demanding, sometimes even dangerous, work. If you have sustained an injury, it’s important to seek medical attention as soon as possible. Patients who receive early diagnosis and treatment often recover faster and with fewer complications than those who delay care, and they are able to avoid activities that might make an injury worse.
3. Stay current on your wellness visits.
Wellness visits (also known as annual check-ups) are another important step veterans can take to improve their health. At a wellness visit, your provider can order any recommended screening tests you need based on your gender, age, lifestyle habits, and family history.
Wellness visits can also screen for health conditions like hypertension, diabetes, and high cholesterol, which often don’t cause any symptoms until the condition becomes advanced.
In addition, these visits provide an opportunity to screen for any sexually-related conditions, including cervical cancer, anal cancer, and sexually transmitted infections.
4. Seek prompt medical attention if you start to feel sick.
If you start to experience symptoms of an illness, it’s wise to seek medical attention as early in the course as possible. A healthcare provider can accurately diagnose you and make treatment recommendations that will help you feel better faster and decrease the risk of complications that patients can experience if they delay their care.
Also, many medications prescribed to treat infections (i.e., influenza) are most effective if taken within the first few days of symptoms. So, if you do start to feel ill, it’s wise to be seen by a healthcare provider as soon as possible. If you are prescribed medication, ensure you follow your provider's instructions on how to take the medication.
5. Make self-care a priority.
With the demands of work, family, and other obligations, it can be difficult to prioritize time to focus on yourself. But self-care is invaluable for your physical, mental, and emotional health.
Make sure you’re taking the time to eat healthy meals, get plenty of exercises, spend time outdoors, get enough sleep and nurture your spiritual well-being. When you invest in quality self-care, you’ll enhance your physical, mental, and emotional health.
6. Connect with your support network.
As human beings, we are designed for human contact and connection. Research shows that when people have healthy, supportive relationships with their family, friends, colleagues, and romantic partners, they are happier and healthier, and live longer.
On the other hand, people who are isolated from quality human connections have higher rates of depression, stress, anxiety, and insomnia, and they have a 50% higher risk of premature death.
So, make sure that you’re fostering healthy connections with people around you. Having a support network is one of the best things you can do to experience a happy, healthy, fulfilled life.
7. Ask for help.
Research has shown that military service can take a significant toll on the health of those who serve, with veterans experiencing high rates of PTSD and major depression.
Research has also shown that only about 50% of soldiers receive the mental health services they need. Unfortunately, this leads to high rates of domestic violence, substance abuse, and suicide. In fact, 22 veterans in the U.S. die by suicide every day.
The bottom line is: If you need help, don’t be afraid or ashamed to ask for it. Many mental health services are offered through the VA. Also, the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline is available 24/7.
If you or a loved one is experiencing a mental health emergency, go to the nearest E.R. or call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-8255.