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Prioritizing Health for Veterans

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Prioritizing Health for Veterans

When service men and women return home from deployment, they often focus on family, friends and getting acclimated to civilian life. What they often don't prioritize? Their health.

"Veterans are very used to regular physicals as a part of their service activities and that's set up without them ever having to think about it," says Cooper Clinic preventive medicine physician S. Michael Clark, MD. "Once they're discharged, their health is something they have to think about themselves and often times, don't."

Returning home

Clark sees veterans annually as part of Cooper Aerobics’ partnership with the Boot Campaign, which provides veterans access and funding to comprehensive treatment options. The non-profit joins forces with evidence-based treatment and training partners, like Cooper Clinic, to help veterans struggling with traumatic brain injury, post-traumatic stress disorder, chronic pain, self-medication and insomnia.

Clark says many veterans he sees go from being fit as a part of their daily service regimen to unfit once they retire from the military. If they suffered an injury while serving, that can set their health back even further. 

Once home, many veterans develop health issues typical in American culture such as: 

  • Weight gain
  • High blood pressure
  • Poor cardiovascular health
  • Glucose intolerance

Clark recommends veterans receive a comprehensive exam as soon as possible once they return home from duty. The sooner physicians know what each veteran is dealing with, the more effective the treatment plan can be. 

What to expect 

Veterans who visit Cooper Clinic as part of the Boot Campaign receive the same comprehensive preventive exam as other patients. However, unlike the general public, many servicemen and women have had exposure to:

  • Heavy metals
  • Chemicals
  • Dust
  • Pollutants
  • Infections

This often requires certain screenings to be performed at an earlier age. 

"Our standard recommendation for someone with normal risk is that they receive a CT scan at age 40 (male) or age 50 (female)," says Clark. "However, all veterans we see, irrespective of age or gender, get a CT scan due to these possible exposures."

Clark says many of the veterans he sees have also suffered traumatic brain injuries. The Boot Campaign requires veterans receive extensive mental health and neurological  evaluations, which are performed at UT Southwestern Medical Center in Dallas and University of Texas at Dallas. 

Sustaining neurological and other physical injuries means many veterans have been in and out of doctor’s offices frequently. Clark understands this can deter many vets from stepping foot in a medical office upon return. Yet, he stresses the physicians and exam process at Cooper Clinic are likely to be  much different than what they’ve likely experienced in the past. 

"One veteran told me after seven years of seeing a handful of doctors, his visit to Cooper Clinic was the best experience he ever had," says Clark. "I believe it's because we are able to take more time to evaluate the whole person so we can better develop a health and fitness plan tailored to them." 

If you know a veteran, Clark recommends you talk with them about their medical needs and encourage them to receive a comprehensive exam. For more information about services provided through the Boot Campaign, click here. For more information about Cooper Clinic, click here or call 972.560.2667.