I recently had the opportunity to discuss hiking benefits and heart health with a Vietnam veteran. He has had a lifelong battle with Ischemic heart disease connected to his exposure to Agent Orange in Vietnam. His exposure to Agent Orange was extremely high as he flew in helicopters below the planes that were dropping the herbicide. He told me that they would come back from a mission and the helicopter and everyone in it were soaked in the herbicide, so much so that their flak vests were set out to dry before the next mission.
His heart disease began at an early age of 32 years old when he had his first heart attack. This heart attack was 11 years after leaving Vietnam. He continued to have heart issues including 2 more heart attacks before he finally had a sextuple bypass. A few years after the bypass surgery he had a valve replacement and a few years after that he had that valve replaced with a better valve. He really is a medical miracle with all of the work he has had done to his heart.
This Vietnam veteran is now 75 years old and he continues to impress his doctors with his strength. At a recent appointment, his cardiologist told him that his heart is strong and other than all of the damage done, he has a healthy heart. There are many factors including modern medicine that have allowed this hero to keep living but one of the main reasons he and his doctors credit are his consistent outdoor activities including hiking. He intends on keeping his heart strong by exercising it in the outdoors.
He took up hiking about 30 years ago and hikes a couple of miles six days per week. The past twenty years he has had two different big dogs that have kept him hiking. He does not hike up the sides of mountains or even go on long hikes to far from home but he is consistent. He gets his heart rate up safely and takes time to enjoy the outdoors. He also takes time to be mindful and pray for the blessings he has. These hikes have also helped him with his PTSD and stress relief. He combines his love for the outdoors and his dog along with his faith to make the most out of every day. All of these positive impacts of hiking have made a difference in strengthening his heart.
When you get a chance to thank Vietnam veterans take the time. They deserve the recognition because they did not get it when they came home.