Law enforcement can put a lot of wear and tear on both the mind and body. As you age, it’s more important than ever, especially as a public servant, to do everything you can to keep yourself healthy, strong and mentally sharp. Although aging is inevitable, many later-in-life health issues can be prevented before they start. Here’s a quick primer on some of the most common conditions.
Love Your Heart
It’s no secret that heat disease is the No. 1 killer of Americans, but do you know how age can affect your heart? As we get older, blood vessels and heart walls can thicken, arteries can harden, and the heart isn’t able to beat as fast during physical activity as when we were younger. Heart valves also can thicken, causing problems with blood flow. That’s why it’s so important to take care of your ticker. This means maintaining a healthy weight, eating nutritious food, exercising and keeping diabetes, high blood pressure and cholesterol under control.
Another big factor contributing to heart disease that seems to greatly affect those who work in law enforcement is stress, so make sure you’re keeping stress in check.
“Being heart-healthy also means abstaining from some unhealthy habits, such as sitting for long periods of time, smoking and drinking,” says Jessica Stull, M.D., an Internal Medicine physician at Kelsey-Seybold’s Tanglewood Clinic.
Train Your Brain and Boost Your Nervous System
Contrary to what you might see in movies, dementia is not an automatic diagnosis for the average aging person, but it isn’t uncommon for older people to experience some forgetfulness from time to time. In addition, the cells in the brain and nervous system break down over time, which means signals traveling from one place to another don’t always connect. This is often made worse by drug, alcohol or tobacco abuse.
“Keeping your brain and nervous system healthy has a lot to do with not only maintaining a healthy diet, but also doing ‘workouts’ for your brain. Couple a diet full of healthy fats, minerals, lean proteins and water – necessary for helping to build new connections between nerves and brain cells – with activities that engage your brain, such as Sudoku or crossword puzzles to help boost your brain and nervous system power,” Dr. Stull suggests.
Maybe there wasn’t much focus on skin protection when you were growing up, but it’s never too late to start! Skin cancer is one of the most common types of cancer in adults, so make sure you’re always wearing sunscreen (this is especially important for law enforcement officials who spend a lot of time outside on patrol) and that you reapply every few hours. It’s also a good idea to have your skin checked by a dermatologist annually or as directed by your doctor.
Stay in Touch with Your Doctor
Perhaps the easiest thing to do to keep your health in check is the one thing that most people neglect: Keep in touch with your doctor. Make regular appointments, talk to your doctor about when you need to start getting yearly prostate exams, colonoscopies, mammograms and heart checks. If you have a question or concern about your health, don’t wait. Talk to your doctor. Don’t forget that mental health is just as important as physical health, so if you feel overwhelmed or stressed out, see what options are available for you within your department, or seek help from a therapist on your own. There’s nothing wrong with a little mental maintenance. In fact, all of these preventive appointments can save you a lot of frustration and potential health scares in the long run.