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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.

Recognizing mild TBI

HPRC Fitness Arena: Mind Body, Total Force Fitness
Traumatic brain injury (TBI) is common among returning service members, but it’s also common among civilians. Learn to recognize symptoms.

Between 2000 and 2015, more than 339,000 service members sustained a traumatic brain injury (TBI) in the Operation Enduring Freedom (OEF)/Operation Iraqi Freedom (OIF) conflicts. The first step to care is being able to recognize symptoms, especially for less obvious TBIs. While service members are at greater risk than their civilian counterparts, TBI is not just a military injury. Over 2.2 million American civilians are treated each year for TBI. Leading causes include falls and automobile accidents. In theater, blasts account for most TBIs. Each injury is unique, and each person’s road to recovery is different.

TBI involves alteration of brain function caused by an external physical force. A penetrating TBI is usually obvious, such as a bullet or stab wound to the head. Closed injuries sometimes aren’t so apparent: These include blast injuries, falls, vehicle crashes, and head-to-head collisions (such as on an athletic field).

Severity depends on the amount of brain tissue injured and ranges from mild to severe. Impairment can be physical, cognitive, sensory, and/or emotional.

About 82% of TBIs sustained in OIF/OEF conflicts were labeled mild (mTBI, also referred to as concussion). The most common symptom is headache. Other symptoms include dizziness, sleep disturbances, fatigue, attention and memory problems, irritability, and changes in vision, balance, and mood. However, symptoms can be subtle, and patients often don’t seek medical help for weeks or months after the injury occurred.

Most mTBI patients recover fully. The Defense and Veterans Brain Injury Center (DVBIC) “Blast Injuries” web page offers good advice for recovering from blast-induced mTBI.

Recovery from moderate-to-severe TBI usually requires treatment at a rehabilitation hospital. The goals are to improve function and promote independence and re-integration into the community. Progress can be slow, but change and improvement can continue for years.

Health.mil offers resources for both patients and clinicians. DVBIC’s A Head for the Future website provides educational materials to encourage prevention and promote recognition and treatment of TBI in the military.

Aconite—a probable cause for concern

Aconitum kusnezoffii is another ingredient to look out for on dietary supplement labels. Here’s why.

Aconitum kusnezoffii—one of several plants known as aconite—is being marketed in some dietary supplement products as a source of the stimulant 2-aminoisoheptane. All aconites naturally contain a toxin called “aconitine” and are considered poisonous. Although some types of aconite are used in traditional Chinese medicines, the plant must be properly processed, or it can be dangerous and lethal. Even when properly processed, it can still be dangerous.

There is no scientific evidence that 2-aminoisoheptane, also called octodrine or DMHA, occurs in aconite or anywhere else in nature. Octodrine is a nasal decongestant, first made in a laboratory in 1944. Without laboratory testing, there’s no way to know if a dietary supplement product labeled with this ingredient contains 2-aminoisoheptane or aconite (or both) or any of the other toxic chemicals found in aconite. Bottom line: If a product lists “2-aminoisoheptane (Aconitum kusnezoffii)” as an ingredient, it could be problematic.

Distraction-free driving and your teen

As a parent, make sure your teen drives safely and distraction-free this summer.

More teen driving accidents happen during the summer because school is out and teens are driving more—and some are driving while distracted. If the summer sun’s shining and your teen’s asking for the car keys, hand them over cautiously. And do this only after demonstrating safe driving and discussing the danger of driving while distracted.

During the summer months, it’s estimated that 10 people will die each day as a result of accidents involving teen drivers. Distracted driving often leads to crashes. This is especially true for teens distracted by their cell phones, passengers, and other things inside their cars. Anything that takes the driver’s eyes off the road, hands off the wheel, or even mind away from driving is a distraction: Texting and using a cell phone often involves all three.

Distractions impair teens’ driving performance (regardless of their attention spans), reduce safe driving practices, and disrupt traffic flow. If your teen’s friends text and drive—and don’t see a problem with it—your teen is likely to think it’s acceptable and normal.

Discussing the dangers of distracted driving with your teen is an important first step towards prevention. And demonstrating safe, distraction-free driving yourself is key. Teens tend to think their parents are distracted while driving, sometimes more than parents realize.

As a parent, make sure to wear your seat belt, put away your phone, and concentrate on the road. Set driving rules for your teen too (for example, silencing his or her cell phone and putting it away when driving). Review the rules often, and enforce consequences when they’re broken. And ask your teen to sign the pledge, promising to be a safe, distraction-free driver.

Yoga for pain relief

HPRC Fitness Arena: Total Force Fitness
Learn more about how adding yoga to your pain management plan can help.

Adding yoga to your existing pain management plan can help ease pain from injury or illness. An integrative mind-body approach, it often combines meditation and breathing with exercise and stretching. It can be done home, either on your own or with the help of a video, or in a class with an instructor. Yoga and other mind-body practices are recognized by DoD as treatment strategies to help regulate and manage pain-related stress. In addition, yoga and meditation can help relieve symptoms of PTSD. Read the full article for more information... 

Camping or hiking? Practice food safety!

HPRC Fitness Arena: Nutrition, Total Force Fitness
Heading into the woods or out on the trail? Want to share some service-member skills with your friends or family? Learn how to stay hydrated, “go light” with nutritious foods, and practice food safety.

Be prepared for your next hiking or camping trip whether you’re heading out for a few hours or days. A proper plan includes drinking water and safe food practices, guiding your journey to the great outdoors. Remember that your energy and water needs generally will be higher than usual too. So, you’ll want to stay hydrated and fuel up to perform well.

  • Hiking. Make sure to hydrate before you take off. Bring water! And drink 1 cup for every hour you’re out throughout the day. Go light with energy-rich foods that can be transported easily and safely. Perishable foods, such as a sandwich or cheese sticks, should be kept cold. Non-perishable favorites include trail mix, nuts, nut butters with wheat tortillas, dried fruits and vegetables, granola bars, and jerkies. Go lighter on multi-day hikes: Bring instant pasta or freeze-dried meals, ready-pouches of fish or meat, apples, and oatmeal.
  • Camping. Your meal options increase if you keep perishables cold. For example, prepare and freeze a favorite meal that also can be used as an ice block to help chill meat and dairy items. Bring “hiker foods” along with fresh carrots and potatoes, instant pasta or rice, and canned meats or fish. Breakfast ideas include pancakes or oatmeal and dried fruit. Make sure you have all the camping essentials, including matches, cooking stove or pans, trash bags, and cleaning products for your hands and equipment.
  • Food safety. Wash your hands often. Toss any perishable food that sits out longer than one hour in the heat (90°F or higher). If possible, use two coolers: one for perishables (opened less often) and the other for drinks. And bring a food thermometer to test burgers and hot dogs for doneness.

Don’t forget the marshmallows, the perfect ending to a delightful day out!

Activity trackers: Fun fitness tools

Learn how activity trackers can help keep you motivated, moving, and healthy.

Activity monitors or “activity trackers” can be fun and useful tools for monitoring your exercise and other activities. Some products also track your sleep every day. And some even can track your diet. With the ever-evolving technology, there’s likely a tracker that’s best for you: from simple step/distance/calorie-counting to smartwatches with GPS tracking.

These days, the most popular trackers seem to be wearable wristbands. Check out our updated comparison chart of some popular trackers to help find the right one for your needs and budget. While they can be fun and interactive social fitness tools, it’s important to remember they’re not meant to be used as medical devices. All activity trackers will have some margin of error, and none of them make perfect measurements. Be sure to speak with your doctor if you’re looking for a specific medical device.

Still, if you want to stay active, motivated, and healthy, then an activity tracker might be a perfect fit! 

Your family’s Independence Day story

Resilient families create shared meanings and stories. This 4th of July, consider what story you tell your kids about our country’s birthday.

Creating shared meanings about events, especially adversities, is a trait of strong, resilient families. So what’s the story you tell your kids about Independence Day? What meaning do you attribute to this holiday? And how might this meaning link to your own personal philosophies about life?

Do you tell your kids a story of overcoming oppression? Fighting for freedom? Is it a story about justice? Or perhaps one about taking risks? Is it about uniting behind a common goal? Or maybe it’s about creating something new? Perhaps it’s a story about everyone being able to pursue his or her own happiness?

Families develop and share common understandings about events that grow from their strong beliefs. Especially in times of stress, shared family beliefs and the meaning families attribute to their struggle can impact how well a family copes. The stories told within families create a family culture and cohesion. It also becomes part of how families assess challenges.

As a parent, you can strongly impact your children’s beliefs and nurture joint understandings. Faced with a new situation, your kids look to you to help them make sense of what they don’t understand. They’re likely to mimic your physical reactions too.

You can create meaning through your own life experiences as well as the explanations you attribute to events and circumstances. The meaning you pass on to your kids comes from your own personal philosophy, morals, and impressions of the world, yourself, friends, and family. 

This 4th of July, think about how you frame the story of Independence Day and what that tells your kids about their country and perhaps about their own family.

Updated OPSS High-Risk Supplement List

More products have been added to HRSL. Is yours on the list?

Since May 2016, 43 dietary supplement products have been added to the Operation Supplement Safety (OPSS) High-Risk Supplement List, bringing the total number of products on the list to 247. Together with the U.S. Anti-Doping Agency (USADA), OPSS frequently updates the list to help you stay informed about current high-risk products. You can access the High-Risk Supplement List from the OPSS web page or download the app (from the Apps tab) to your phone or tablet and take it wherever you go. If you’re considering dietary supplements, be sure to check back often for more updates.

Raw or cooked produce: What’s healthier?

HPRC Fitness Arena: Nutrition, Total Force Fitness
Learn when you should turn the flame up—or down—on your favorite fruits and vegetables.

Many raw fruits and vegetables are tasty, low in calories and fat, and high in fiber. And eating them might help you feel fuller and consume less, which is especially helpful if you’re trying to lose weight. However, some cooked produce can be just as delicious—and even more nutritious.

Many cooked fruits and vegetables (such as tomatoes, corn, spinach, carrots, and asparagus) provide more antioxidants, which protect cells and help your body function properly. For example, cooked tomatoes and asparagus release vitamin-rich lycopene, which can help lower your risk of heart disease and cancer. And cooked spinach provides greater amounts of calcium, iron, and fiber.

However, broccoli is best eaten raw because myrosinase, a valuable enzyme, is damaged during the cooking process. Vitamin C can be lost during cooking too. But you can find it in citrus and other foods. In the warmer months, eating raw produce can save time as well as keep your kitchen cooler since you won’t be cooking! Still, raw fruits and vegetables might be hard to find when you’re on a mission or in a smaller dining facility. So instead, choose from what’s offered—whether it’s dried, canned, frozen, or dehydrated.

Try to include a variety of produce in your meal plan, aiming for 2 cups of fruit and 2½ cups of veggies each day. Choose fruits and vegetables from the rainbow of colors (red, blue/purple, green, yellow, orange, and white) to maximize nutrient intake. Eat both cooked and raw varieties to make sure you’re getting nutrients, antioxidants, and more. For example, eat raw carrot sticks one day and cook them on a different day. And enjoy the benefit of obtaining all that nature intended to provide!

Homemade fitness

Your gym workout can be expensive and time-consuming. Use household items to exercise in the comfort of your own home—at little or no cost.

Dumbbells, kettle bells, barbells, and benches can be expensive additions to your home gym. So, get creative, look around your home, and find common household items that can help pump up your fitness routine. Or reuse balls or bottles to boost strength and reduce waste to help protect the environment. Try these DIY home-exercise hacks for a full-body workout that’s convenient and easy on your wallet!

  • Perform calf raises, single-leg raises, or squats on your stairs.
  • Use a sturdy chair for tricep dips, step-ups, push-ups, or squat jumps.
  • Practice ab rollers using a hand or kitchen towel on your tile or hardwood floors, or switch to paper plates for use on a carpet.
  • Use a gallon (or half-gallon) jug—filled with sand to desired weight—for bicep curls, overhead presses, or tricep extensions.
  • Use a 72-oz detergent bottle—weighing about 5 lbs—for 2-handed lifts such as shoulder raises or sumo squats.
  • Use water bottles—filled with water or sand—for a variety of dumbbell-weight exercises, including bicep curls, weight lunges, and shoulder presses.
  • Make a medicine ball: Cut a slit in a basketball or soccer ball, fill with sand, and seal.

Remember there are clever ways to workout—whether you’re on or off duty. And check out HPRC’s videos to learn more home-exercise hacks.




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