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HPRC Blog

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.

Can you spot a red flag?

Choose supplements safely. Learn how to spot red flags.

When something sounds too good to be true, it probably is. Dietary supplements are popular among military personnel, and it’s important to be able to spot the red flags—warning signs of potential problems—when considering a product. Read the OPSS FAQ on how to spot these red flags to help make an informed decision. And be sure to check back often for new FAQs.

Appreciate your spouse this month...and always

Write a “gratitude letter” this month to show your spouse you appreciate all he or she does.

The daily grind can make it easy to forget to tell your spouse how much you appreciate him or her. This month, focus on showing your partner how much he or she means to you. There are many ways to show appreciation. One way is to write a “gratitude letter” in which you tell your partner in writing how his or her actions have affected your life in a positive way. Describe all the little things that you appreciate—from kindness toward others to making you a special dinner. Try to be specific so that he or she knows you put a lot of thought into it. And try not to expect something in return. The essence of gratitude is to give without expecting something in return.

For more ideas on fostering gratitude, read “Just the Facts: Resilience—Gratitude” from afterdeployment.org.

How am I doing? Ask my computer…

Technology can help us be more aware of how we think and even how we feel. It is all still evolving, but these advances are promising for optimal Warfighter training and health.

Good decision-making is crucial to mission success for any Warfighter. Advancements in technology can help build awareness of how people think (that is, how they remember and evaluate information) and even how they feel (recognizing “gut feelings” and what drives them). “Affective computing” and “wearable sensing” are no longer science fiction. Special bracelets or other articles of clothing can sense one’s needs in terms of exercise, diet, and sleep and can even be programmed to communicate physical or emotional needs to others. Optimal training can occur when emotions facilitate learning rather than impede it. And it doesn’t stop with training; “e-health” applications for mental health, delivered via smart phones or other small mobile devices, are promising, especially as the technology continues to advance.

Red yeast rice: A reliable remedy?

HPRC Fitness Arena: Nutrition, Total Force Fitness
Red yeast rice is often touted as a “natural” remedy for high cholesterol. But does it work? And is it safe?

Red yeast rice is a product of rice fermented with Monascus purpureusyeast. It has been used as food and/or medicine for many centuries in parts of Asia, but it is also available as a dietary supplement. It contains a substance known as monacolin K, a naturally-occurring substance that works like lovastatin, a type of statin. Statins are drugs prescribed to reduce blood cholesterol by limiting the amount of cholesterol produced by the liver. Red yeast rice that contains large amounts of monacolin K can lower blood cholesterol levels, but the amount of monacolin K in red yeast rice ranges from very high to none at all.

The Food and Drug Administration has warned consumers that if a red yeast rice dietary supplement product contains monacolin K, it is considered an unauthorized drug and taking it can carry the same risks—some serious—as the drug lovastatin. As the consumer, you really have no way to know whether a red yeast rice product does or does not contain monacolin K, and therefore no way of knowing if the product is safe, effective, or legal. In addition, red yeast rice (as either a food or dietary supplement) can be contaminated with a form of fungus that can cause kidney failure. You can learn more about the safety and effectiveness of red yeast rice from this National Center for Complementary and Alternative Medicine web page.

What’s in your energy drink?

Learn how to spot potentially problematic ingredients in energy drinks.

Do you really know what’s in your energy drink? HPRC put together a new resource that points out some common ingredients found in energy drinks. Our ingredient label includes some hidden sources of caffeine and other ingredients that can have stimulant effects on your body. It also highlights other information that you might see on a label, including warnings. So check out the energy drinks infosheet, and then go to Operation Supplement Safety (OPSS) for more information about how to choose dietary supplements safely.

Energy Drink Can [JPG]

Create meaning out of your experiences

Creating a shared understanding of challenging experiences is an important resilience-building skill for families.

One key resilience-building skill for military families is to create meaning from experiences. And as a family, you can share your understanding of challenging experiences or situations by having each family member explain his or her experience and perspective of a particular event. The event can be a specific situation or a period of time, such as the time when a family member was deployed. Together, your family can create a “picture” of the experience. Be creative! This can be with talk or with art or both.

Parents and other caregivers are essential to help children make sense of upsetting and/or challenging experiences. In addition, spouses can feel distant from each other due to their differing experiences, so creating a shared understanding can help bridge the divide. The process of creating a common understanding of a challenging event can help family members bond, understand the past better, and look to the future with more hope.

This is one of the resilience-building skills taught in the Families Overcoming Under Stress (FOCUS) program. To learn more about FOCUS (and their online resources) check out FOCUS World.

Ode to olive oil

HPRC Fitness Arena: Nutrition, Total Force Fitness
Filed under: Diet, Fats, Nutrition
Learn more about this versatile, tasty, healthy fat.

Olive oil is known for its flavor, versatility, and health-promoting qualities. Nutrition experts think olive oil may be partly responsible for the many health benefits associated with the “Mediterranean diet,” an eating pattern that emphasizes fruits, vegetables, whole grains, beans, nuts, and “healthy” fats. Olive oil is a monounsaturated fat—one of the healthy fats. It contains vitamins A, E, and K, plus many other beneficial compounds that might reduce your risk of heart disease.

Heating olive oil or holding it at high temperatures for long periods of time can reduce its beneficial qualities. If you use olive oil for deep-frying, it should be discarded after one or two uses.

Interestingly, olives can “pick up” airborne toxins present in smoke from fires, car exhaust, and other pollutants. So it might be a good idea to choose olive oils produced from olives grown in areas where air quality is good most of the growing season. This is likely true for all edible oils.

Olive oil can be used in countless ways: Drizzle on pasta or bread, brush lightly on meats or fish, coat vegetables for roasting, or use nearly any way that butter or other fats can be used—even baking! Of course, as with all fats, be sure to use olive oil in moderation to avoid gaining weight.

A 30-day challenge for families!

Challenge your family to 30 days of relationship strengthening activities with FOCUS’s calendar of activities.

Having a resilient family isn’t something that just happens—it takes some effort. You can develop and improve your family’s resiliency by honing the skills you already have and developing new ones as needed. To give you a jump start, try doing 30 days of activities that will improve your relationships. The Families Overcoming Under Stress (FOCUS) resiliency program created a calendar of events you can do with your children that covers an entire month. Each activity teaches a skill that will strengthen your family over time. They highlight activities such as family fun nights and family meetings and teach skills such as deep breathing, goal setting, communication, and self-care. They also have many activities specifically for military families and children.

To learn other family-strengthening skills and activities, check out HPRC’s Rock Solid Families section.

“STOP” what you’re doing and read this…

Filed under: Mind, Stress
Learn a quick “STOP” technique to help you make better decisions under pressure.

The American Psychological Association just released an article suggesting that trial judges make better decisions when they do “STOP” meditations:

  • Stop what you are doing
  • Take a few deep breaths and focus on the experience of breathing
  • Observe your thoughts, feelings, and actions
  • Proceed with new awareness

Like Warfighters, judges make very important decisions that affect peoples’ lives, but judges also are not immune to impacts of stress. Like everyone else under stress, they can thoughtlessly make quick decisions based on “rules of thumb,” but because we are human biases creep in, sometimes leading to bad decisions.

So, the STOP technique can be important too for Warfighters, spouses, parents, or anyone else looking to make good decisions when it matters. STOP-ping allows you to monitor and adjust your current stress in order to make good decisions.

Injury Prevention Strategies: Lifting, Strengthening, Stretching

Many back injuries result from lifting heavy objects incorrectly. Check out HPRC’s tips for proper lifting, along with some other strategies for maintaining a healthy back.

If you’ve ever had a back injury, you know that the recovery process can take weeks, months, or even years—this is referred to as a chronic condition. Preventing injuries to the back can save you from going down this long road to recovery. Check out our new article on back injuries that includes tips on lifting heavy objects, strengthening the muscles of the back, and maintaining adequate flexibility in the muscles, tendons, and ligaments.

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