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Welcome to the HPRC Blog. We've got lots of information here, from quick tips to in-depth posts about detailed human performance optimization topics.

Tips to practice safe sun

HPRC Fitness Arena: Environment, Total Force Fitness
Filed under: Exposure, Heat, Safety, Sun
Protect yourself from the dangers of too much sun this summer and year ‘round.

Skin cancer is a major public health issue, but with proper precautions you can decrease your risk considerably. Ultraviolet radiation (UVR) is the most important risk factor for both melanoma and non-melanoma skin cancer. Exposure to these rays also can result in deeper facial wrinkles, skin discoloration, burn, and skin aging.

Athletes who practice outdoor sports are especially at risk for skin cancer. Sweating increases the skin’s sensitivity to the sun’s rays, magnifying the risk of sunburn and skin damage.

Remember: The weather does not have to be sunny and hot for you to get sun damage! Whether you’re training for the PRT, patrolling, road marching, or participating in a summer league softball game, follow these tips to stay safe during all outdoor activities. [[Christy – Use the text to this point for the home page BLUF, then add the words “Read more...” and hyperlink to full article, with all text, above and below.]]

  • Avoid burning
    • As little as a single sunburn can increase your risk for developing skin cancer. Getting burned 5 or more times doubles the risk over your lifetime.
  • Apply sunscreen
    • Use water-resistant, broad-spectrum (UVA/UVB) sunscreen, with SPF 15 or higher, every day. Apply it 15–30 minutes before you’re exposed to the sun to give it time to absorb. Also, reapply sunscreen after swimming, sweating, or toweling off. Be sure to check out the FDA regulations regarding sunscreens and their effectiveness.
  • Seek shade
    • Whenever possible, stay in the shade under a tree or tent. Especially try to avoid sun exposure during midday (11 a.m. to 3 p.m.), when the rays are strongest.
  • Cover up
    • Wear protective clothing—including hats, long-sleeved shirts, and pants—when you go outdoors. Keep in mind, though, that protection decreases when clothes are wet.
  • Use extra caution…
    • …near water, snow, and sand. Ultraviolet rays can reflect off these and other surfaces, increasing your chance of sun exposure and skin damage.
  • Wear sunglasses
    • Protect your eyes when you work, drive, participate in sports, take a walk, or run an errand. Solar ultraviolet B radiation can increased your risk of cataracts and cancer of the skin around eyes without proper cover.

Trapped by your thoughts?

The way we think often impacts what we do. This is particularly true in relationships.

How we interpret experiences has a big impact on how we react to them. Your personal relationships are especially prone to “thinking traps” that can lead you to draw false conclusions. For example, let’s say you’ve been married for some time now. But recently you find yourself thinking your partner doesn’t love you any more because she or he no longer says so.

One way to address this kind of thinking trap is to ask yourself—or have a friend ask you—questions that make you think about the reasoning or evidence behind what you’re thinking:

  • What specifically makes you think your spouse doesn’t love you any more?
  • What did he or she do in the past that made you feel loved?
  • Are there any other possible explanations that might explain your partner’s behavior, such as job stress, an ailing parent, children acting out, or recent return from deployment?
  • When you think back to the beginning of your relationship, how could you tell he or she loved you? Was it something said? Or done?
  • Has your behavior toward your spouse changed recently?

Questions such as these can help you gain perspective. Once you’ve gone through this self-questioning process, it’s possible you’ll interpret your partner’s behavior in a different way. Maybe you were just caught up in a thinking trap.

Choose a better granola bar

HPRC Fitness Arena: Nutrition, Total Force Fitness
There are hundreds of granola bars on the market, but not all are created equal. “Raise the bar” on yours for better nutrition and satisfaction.

Granola bars are great for a quick, convenient snack, but some are more like candy bars in disguise. They can be high in sugar, fat, and calories. There are plenty of healthy variations of granola bars, though. You just have to know what to look for. Next time you’re in a store or in the commissary, compare Nutrition Facts labels and follow these tips:

  • Look for a granola bar that has at least 4 grams of protein, 3 grams of fiber, and less than 200 calories. This will help you stay full longer while keeping your nutrition in check.
  • Find a granola bar with less than 10 grams of sugar. Most of it is added sugar. And watch out for hidden sources of sugar such as brown rice syrup and honey.
  • When it comes to ingredients, look for ones you recognize or can pronounce. Remember, a granola bar with fewer ingredients is often better.

For information on how to read Nutrition Facts labels, check out this guide from the Food and Drug Administration.

“Tainted” dietary supplement products

Dietary supplements sometimes contain ingredients that are not listed on the label. Find out which products can put your health and career at risk.

Service members should be careful about taking dietary supplements because many of these products contain hidden active ingredients that can result in harmful effects.

The most common types of dietary supplements found to contain “undeclared” ingredients (that is, substances not listed on the label) are those marketed for weight loss, sexual enhancement, and bodybuilding. The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has identified over 600 tainted dietary supplements. FDA specifically warns against the use of products that claim to be “alternatives” to FDA-approved drugs or “legal” alternatives to anabolic steroids.

Dietary supplements don’t require approval by FDA before being put on the market, and without laboratory testing there is no way to know the contents of a product. If you’re considering a dietary supplement, be sure to check the label to see if the product has been evaluated by an independent third-party organization.

For more information, please visit Operation Supplement Safety (OPSS), including the OPSS High-Risk Supplement List.

Why forgiveness helps the forgiver

HPRC Fitness Arena: Mind Tactics, Total Force Fitness
Filed under: Forgiveness, Mind, Mood
Forgiveness helps both the forgiven and the forgiver. Learn more about how to forgive.

When you forgive others, you let go of feelings that can haunt you, such as anger, hurt, bitterness, and vengefulness. Through forgiveness you also can experience positive emotions toward the wrongdoer, such as wanting the best for that person despite whatever he or she has done.

It’s natural to resist to letting go, so why should you let someone off the hook? When you don’t forgive, you suffer negative feelings too. And what you feel after the fact doesn’t change what has already happened.

Forgiveness is letting go of hurt feelings. It isn’t forgetting, overlooking, or approving of what was done. And it doesn’t necessarily mean restoring a trusting relationship. But it’s hard to let go of feelings. Here are some tips to start the forgiving process:

1)    Remember the hurt. This doesn’t mean you dwell on it, but allow yourself to tune into how you really feel.

2)    Put yourself in the other person’s shoes. This is a tough one. But think about the wrongdoer as a human being capable of making mistakes just like anyone else. This doesn’t excuse his or her mistake, but maybe something contributed to being misguided.

3)    Consider your own past mistakes. Picture times when you made mistakes. You don’t need to compare your mistakes, but remember how it felt and how you benefitted or could have benefitted from forgiveness.

4)    Once you forgive, commit to it. You may feel tempted to give in to the negative emotions again, letting them rule your thinking and behavior. Instead, revisit all the ways in which forgiveness makes sense, and let your emotions catch up later.

Forgiveness probably won’t happen overnight, but if you commit to the process, you may find relief from your own pain.

Are you dependable?

Filed under: Relationships, Trust
Being dependable is key for teamwork and group performance. Learn how to be someone others can depend on.

One key ingredient of trust is dependability—being able to depend on those around you. And trust is essential in all your close relationships, whether with your commanding officer, your spouse, or your coworker. You can strengthen your own dependability through the following:

  • Be there for others consistently. This can be as simple as returning calls or emails in a timely manner. Or it can be, for example, having your buddy’s back in a training exercise, “saving” his life.
  • Always act out of concern for another. For example, if a coworker is being badmouthed would you speak up to clear his or her name?
  • Share common interests or missions. If someone feels that you have similar goals and values, he or she is more likely to rely on you. For example, are you more likely to accept your supervisor’s influence if you know he or she values the same mission you do? The same goes at home: If your spouse feels that you both put the needs of your family over your individual interests, he or she is more likely to listen to you and trust you.

When you build trust by being dependable, you may find that those around you become more trustworthy and dependable too.” 

Have you had an adverse event?

Know the signs of an adverse event and how to report this important information.

An “adverse event” can occur as a result of taking some dietary supplements. Learn how to identify an adverse event from the Operation Supplement Safety (OPSS) FAQ, and find out where you can go to report one. And for healthcare providers, HPRC has a helpful video, “How to probe for dietary supplement use and report adverse events.” (Click on the “Video” tab to access the link.) Documenting adverse events is an essential part of how the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) evaluates potentially dangerous dietary supplements, so it’s very important to report potential problems.

Spare your back when moving

Here’s a reminder about how to handle heavy objects properly and protect your back when loading your moving truck during PCS.

Service members and their families relocate a lot, and moving to a new home is hard enough without adding injury. Here are some tips on how to properly handle heavy objects such as moving boxes and furniture, and how to take care of yourself if you do sustain an injury:

  • Wear less-restrictive clothing such as looser-fitting pants or workout clothes.
  • Wear closed-toe shoes.
  • Take breaks when necessary. Stretching and reassessing your mechanics can help you maintain proper posture when lifting. HPRC has tips on how to maintain flexibility and remove tension in your body.
  • The U.S. Army has fact sheets on Lifting Techniques for handling heavy objects and How to Safely Perform Pushing and Pulling Tasks.
  • Remember to keep your core tight, and use your leg muscles rather than your back to lift heavy objects.

The best way to prevent back injury is to strengthen your back and core muscles. The National Institutes of Health (NIH) has suggestions and exercises to help build your back.

If you’re sore from all the lifting or think you may have pulled something, you can treat the pain with ice and rest—and perhaps an over-the-counter pain reliever—for the first 48 hours. Follow NIH guidelines on how to further treat your back pain if it’s acute. However, if the pain persists, consult your doctor to rule out a more serious back problem or injury before you do any more heavy lifting. If all seems well, consider core-strengthening exercises to support your back. Another option is a yoga class to relieve your pain, build your muscles, and return your back to normal function.

For more about how to protect your back, please visit HPRC’s Injury Prevention Series. Good luck with your PCS!

What should I look for in sports drinks?

Sports drinks are popular products for fueling and hydration during workouts. Learn about what your sports drink should contain and how they stack up to nutrient recommendations for performance.

Sports drinks that contain electrolytes and carbohydrates can be essential to performance by replenishing what is lost during activity, mostly through sweat. For activities less than 60 minutes, water is the best drink to replace lost fluids. If your exercise session or mission exceeds 60 minutes, then sports drinks can be helpful. Follow HPRC’s guidelines for maintaining important nutrients such as fluid, carbohydrates, sodium, and potassium during activity to keep well hydrated and on top of your game. Read more here.

Can meditation boost your immune system?

HPRC Fitness Arena: Mind Tactics, Total Force Fitness
Meditation may improve your immune system, help you feel better, and help you use fewer sick days.

Not only can meditation help with stress, it may even boost your immune system and reduce inflammation. In fact, research has found that people who have been in a structured mindfulness program actually had fewer sick days compared to those who didn’t meditate. Even when you’re sick, meditation may actually help you feel better (and happier) in spite of lingering symptoms. And although meditation doesn’t seem to help the elderly to the same extent, it can still help some. 

Not sure how to get started or how to advance your practice? Check out HPRC’s A mindfulness meditation primer” and the MP3 audio files linked there.

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