Amputee Veterans: Supporting the Transition Home

According to the American Academy of Orthopedic Surgeons (AAOS), approximately 8% of all service members who are evacuated from combat zones with battle-related injuries sustained at least one major amputation as a result of those injuries.

A Whole Person

For amputee veterans, it is especially important to treat the whole person and not just the afflicted limb(s). In addition to providing the best possible treatments, Next Step is committed to helping amputees navigate the mental, emotional and physical hurdles that come with a sudden and unexpected life-altering event. Wounded veterans are often dealing with far more complex issues beyond the physical effects of war. Some amputee veterans return home with a combination of stress-related afflictions, including Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD). Often, they need additional support beyond medical and physical treatments.

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Amputee Guide to a Healthy New Year

This is a great time of year to plan for the future, but in New England it’s also pretty tough to stick to those lofty goals when the temperature dips into the teens and twenties, and the snow and wind make many of us want to hit snooze and pull the blankets over our heads for a few more hours. We get it. That’s why we came up with an easy to follow guide to improving your health and wellbeing this year which doesn’t involve braving the cold for a 6am workout.

While millions of Americans are in need of healthier eating and exercise habits, amputees, specifically those whose limb loss was the result of diabetes or other vascular disease, are at a much higher risk of complications and even future amputation of limbs. While most people think of limb loss as a result of trauma, it’s actually diabetes and other vascular diseases that are the leading contributors of limb amputations. For those who have already lost a leg due to diabetes, up to 55% will require amputation of the second leg within 2-3 years.¹

Even with these alarming statistics, many people do not successfully manage their health and wellness to reduce their risk of limb loss, and may become so discouraged or even depressed by their situation that they do not see any reason to take the necessary steps to improve their health.

Here are some simple steps you can take to improve your own health and reduce your risk of future amputation:

Make healthy eating a no-brainer.

The key here is to build healthy eating habits into your day in ways that you don’t even notice them. Try using smaller plates for meals, and load up half of your plate with veggies before adding protein or starches. Swap out high-sugar drinks like soda and juice for seltzer flavored with fresh fruit. In the cold weather, there is nothing more comforting than a bowl of hot soup. Stick to broth-based soups, not cream-based, and be sure to load up on the veggies if you’re making your own. Do you own a slow-cooker? There are hundreds of amazing and healthy recipes available online for free that don’t require much, if any, work to create, and your healthy, delicious meal will be waiting for you at the end of your busy day.

Think ahead.

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Guide to a Healthy New Year

At the start of each year, most of us vow to turn over a new leaf in at least one area of our lives. Whether the goal is to eat healthier, exercise more, quit smoking, or save money, the start of a new year generally fills us with the motivation to better ourselves. For amputees, and those who may face future limb loss, the implications of making these changes can be transformative.

While the stories of limb loss that are most often portrayed by the media are of those involving traumatic events, the reality is that the most common causes for amputation are underlying health issues, such as diabetes and cancer, that build over time and can often be avoided or minimized.

It is estimated that more than 60% of amputations are preventable.

If you or a loved one is currently living with limb loss, or at risk of future amputation, here are a few of the most important resolutions you can make for 2014 and beyond:

Quit Smoking

There are thousands of reasons to quit smoking. In addition to reducing your risk of cancer, stroke, and heart disease you will also greatly reduce your chances of amputation or re-amputation. Smoking cigarettes has been associated with a re-amputation risk 25 TIMES that of nonsmokers.

Plus, smoking is expensive. So quitting will also help you knock that pesky “save money” resolution off your list for 2014.

Check Your Feet

Those suffering from diabetes are prone to circulation issues that can lead to skin ulcers and eventually, limb loss. If you are unsure of what to watch for, check out this step by step guide published by the Mayo Clinic.

Wear proper, well-fitting footwear. Yes, this is a great excuse to buy new shoes.

Schedule a Physical

Before you finish reading this article, call your doctor to schedule a physical. It’s the best first step you can take for a healthy year.

Be honest with your physician about your history and current health. If you don’t share openly and honestly, they won’t know what to look for.

Maintain a Healthy Diet & Exercise Regularly

Just 30 minutes of walking, five times a week is enough to improve your overall health, from decreasing the symptoms of diabetes and depression to increasing bone density to preventing cancer.

54% of amputations are the result of vascular disease. By maintaining a healthy diet and exercising regularly, you will improve your overall cardiovascular health and significantly reduce your risk of limb loss from vascular disease.

A New Year is a great time to start taking the steps toward creating a healthier and happier life for yourself and your family. We encourage you to share your own resolutions and goals in the comments below.

You can learn more and access MANY new resources and tips on our Pinterest board: Preventing Limb Loss!

Happy New Year!