Recent studies conducted at several major medical institutions have demonstrated that US military veterans are at heightened risk for serious cardiovascular events. These studies have suggested that there isn’t one single cause for elevated risk levels. However, it’s clear that veterans do exhibit levels greater than the general population.
Cardiologists are under the impression that long-term exposure to stressful events may exacerbate the problem. Fortunately, there are a few ways that active duty and retired service personnel can help to reduce the issue to some degree.
Keeping an Eye on Cardiovascular Health
While it’s important for everyone to recognize the signs of heart failure, it’s especially vital for those who have been a member of the armed services. Keep an eye out for any kind of fluid build-up. This condition, which physicians refer to as edema, can be an early warning sign of an oncoming coronary. If you feel a suddenly shortness of breath or an intense pain in your chest, then you’ll certainly want this checked out as well.
The same concerns about diet and exercise level that could be raised about civilians are also true of veterans. In fact, they might be even more of an issue considering that most service personnel don’t eat very healthy during the time they’re active. Poor eating habits often continue once an individual has left the armed services. A few simple changes might be all it takes to fix some of these issues.
Worst of all, usage of tobacco products in the armed services is more widespread than the general population according to some sources. This adds to the issue, considering the obvious damage that smoking can do to a person’s cardiovascular system. Kicking the habit can be very difficult for people, but the fact that it adds years of life isn’t at all a secret.
Unfortunately, some of these behaviors can be traced to social issues that former service personnel experience after being discharged. Several recent studies dealt with this fact.
Social Problems that Lead to Heart Disease
A study published in several medical journals reported that participation in military combat was associated with increased levels of coronary heart disease. Psychiatrists who worked alongside cardiological researchers believed that this might have something to do with exposure to stressful events, since many of the patients the study dealt with had no other health problems. However, some also suggested that depression and anxiety brought on by these events eventually led to riskier behaviors.
To make matters worse, another study claimed that around 1 in 12 active duty personnel has clogged arteries. Assuming even half that statistic were true, it would mean that countless new veterans are starting their new civilian life out with somewhat severe medical issues.
Interestingly, some experts don’t believe there’s much correlation between the job someone does in the armed services and their risk level. Former officers and NCOs were at the same heightened levels as many former enlisted personnel. Risk levels didn’t change much between different service branches either.
Heart Disease in the Various Branches
Army, Navy, Air Force and Marine personnel seem to show the same heightened levels of heart disease regardless of whether they only served in a single branch or not. While risk levels aren’t quite as high among those who were only in the Army or Air National Guard, even these veterans experience risk levels that are higher than those of the general population.
So far, it doesn’t seem like any organization is rolling out any plan to deal with the problem either. While the USN has published some common sense advice and the Army has been examining the issue for years now, it doesn’t look like they have any particular programs in place.
Some people have suggested better food and a more rational exercise regimen while people are in the service can help improve heart health. However, it’s uncertain how such policies could be rolled out. It doesn’t seem that any such bills are currently being discussed on the federal or state levels.
Taking Care of Your Own Heart in the Meantime
American Heart Association representatives have been warning veterans to pay particular attention to their blood pressure. There’s no reason that you should have to wait for anyone else to find a solution for these problems on a large scale. Keep an eye on your own measurements and talk to your doctor about any symptoms you might be experiencing.
Making a few small changes today can give you a brighter tomorrow than you ever thought possible.