5 Health Tips For Veterans



Veterans have made immense sacrifices to protect our country and our freedoms. However, their dedication to service has often come at a cost to their personal health, leaving them to grapple with unique challenges that demand proactive self-care.

In order to maintain their physical and emotional well-being after active duty, they must develop healthy habits. Moreover, they must follow these habits with commitment and consistency to ensure they can thrive in their post-service life.

Below are some practical health tips for veterans.

1. Prioritize Mental Health and Wellness

According to the VA, about 30% of Vietnam War veterans have had post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) in their lifetime. Recent veterans also face high rates of PTSD, depression, anxiety, and other mental health struggles.

Seeking treatment is important for managing mental health conditions. Effective treatments like psychotherapy and medication can help veterans regain control of their mental well-being. Beyond professional treatment, there are many lifestyle habits veterans can adopt to support their mental health as well. These may include prioritizing self-care and practicing mindfulness.

2. Get Recommended Health Screenings and Immunizations

Veterans are at increased risk for certain cancers and health conditions linked to toxic exposures during active duty. For example, those deployed to Iraq and Afghanistan faced risks from burn pit smoke, depleted uranium, and other hazards. Vietnam War veterans were exposed to Agent Orange herbicide. Additionally, Navy veterans, particularly at risk for mesothelioma due to asbestos exposure, should be vigilant about their health screenings.

The VA provides free screenings and health registries to monitor veterans for conditions related to their unique exposure history during service. It’s crucial for these veterans, especially those with a history related to mesothelioma Navy service or other specific exposures, to participate in these programs.

Veterans should take advantage of VA programs like:

  • The Airborne Hazards and Open Burn Pit Registry, which monitors respiratory issues
  • The Gulf War Registry, which screens for undiagnosed illnesses
  • The Toxic Embedded Fragments Surveillance Center
  • The Agent Orange Registry

The VA also recommends that veterans receive certain immunizations, like flu shots and vaccines for shingles, pneumonia, hepatitis, and COVID-19.

Utilizing VA healthcare services ensures veterans get specialized care tailored to the environmental exposures encountered during their military service.

3. Stay Active and Exercise Regularly

Having a sedentary lifestyle after service can lead to weight gain, increased disease risk, and poorer mental health. That’s why veterans need to stay active through regular exercise.

Aim for at least 150 minutes per week of moderate aerobic activity along with strength training at least two days a week. Mix up your workouts to keep them interesting. For example, you might lift weights, ride a bike, take yoga classes, go hiking, play sports, or join a recreational sports league.

Exercising regularly provides many health benefits for veterans:

  • Boosts mood and reduces anxiety, depression, and PTSD symptoms
  • Promotes weight loss and prevents weight gain
  • Improves cardiovascular health and lowers blood pressure
  • Helps manage chronic pain
  • Supports better sleep
  • Increases energy levels and combats fatigue
  • Enhances cognitive function
  • Provides an opportunity for social connection if done in a group setting

Aim to find physical activities you genuinely enjoy. Having an exercise buddy can also increase motivation.

4. Get Enough Quality Sleep

Sleep issues like insomnia are very prevalent among veterans. Trauma, chronic pain, anxiety, depression, and sleep apnea can all interfere with sleep. The lack of quality sleep takes a major toll, both physically and mentally. That’s why getting enough sleep should be a top priority.

Here are some tips to promote better sleep:

  • Stick to consistent sleep and wake times, even on weekends. This strengthens the body’s natural sleep-wake cycle.
  • Develop a relaxing pre-bedtime routine like reading, listening to calm music, or taking a bath.
  • Limit screen time and avoid stimulating activities before bed. The blue light from screens is disruptive.
  • Make sure your bedroom is cool, dark, and quiet.
  • Reserve your bed for sleep and intimacy only. Don’t watch TV or work in bed.
  • Avoid large meals, caffeine, and alcohol close to bedtime.
  • Reduce daytime napping.
  • Practice relaxation techniques before bed, like deep breathing, meditation, or light yoga.
  • Ask your doctor about cognitive behavioral therapy for insomnia or sleep medications if needed.
  • Get screened for sleep disorders like sleep apnea, which may require treatment.

5. Eat a Nutritious, Balanced Diet

Eating a nutritious, balanced diet provides energy, helps manage weight, and reduces the risk of chronic diseases. But, many veterans struggle to eat healthily after leaving the military. Stress, mental health issues, and being less active can all negatively impact dietary habits.

Here are some tips to help veterans adopt healthier eating patterns:

  • Cook more meals at home and limit eating out. You’ll have more control over ingredients and portion sizes.
  • Fill half your plate with fruits and veggies at each meal. They provide key vitamins, minerals, fiber, and antioxidants.
  • Choose lean protein sources like chicken, fish, eggs, beans, lentils, nuts and seeds. Protein keeps you full and helps build muscle.
  • Limit processed foods, sweets, sugary drinks, refined carbs, and saturated fats. These unhealthy foods promote weight gain and disease risk when consumed in excess.
  • Drink plenty of water instead of sugary beverages like soda. Staying hydrated is essential.
  • Be mindful of alcohol consumption. Moderation is key as alcohol is high in empty calories.
  • Take a multivitamin to fill any nutritional gaps. Get vitamin D levels checked and supplement if deficient.

Reaching out to a dietitian or nutritionist can also help veterans tailor their diet to any unique health needs.


The health tips provided in this guide tackle some of the most pressing health challenges faced by veterans. The key is to start small and remain consistent. Add one positive habit at a time, like exercising more or eating better. Over time, these small changes accumulate to drive major health improvements.

Our veterans deserve nothing less than the highest possible health and quality of life after selflessly serving our country. The journey starts with a commitment to self-care.