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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.

Can virtual reality relieve post-traumatic stress?

HPRC Fitness Arena: Mind Body, Total Force Fitness
Learn how video-game technology could help veterans overcome post-traumatic stress.

There’s a promising therapy that uses virtual-reality simulation to help treat service members with post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). According to the National Center for PTSD, 10–18% of returning Operation Enduring Freedom (OEF)/Operation Iraqi Freedom (OIF) veterans experience PTSD. The good news is that treatments such as virtual-reality exposure therapy (VRET) might help them work through their challenges.

Trained therapists use VRET to re-create stressful events or situations such as combat scenarios in a virtual-reality environment. The patient wears a headset and interactively reacts to possible sights, smells, sounds, and vibrations that have been visually re-created. This makes the experience realistic for the patient as it provides a strong sense of “being there.” Veterans learn to work through emotions such as fear, tension, and anxiety in a safe environment.

Healthcare providers have successfully used virtual-reality simulation as a resilience-training tool too. It helps builds service members’ confidence and coping skills so they feel stronger and ready for what comes next.

Visit the National Center for PTSD to learn more about post-traumatic stress. Here’s what VRET looks like in action.

Add years to your life with strong relationships

Good friends and family do more than make life worth living. These relationships also might help you live longer!

People with good friendships and strong family relationships are likely to live longer than those without social ties. This is true regardless of gender, age, or how healthy you are. Strong relationships matter for your health, just as much as losing weight, getting active, and stopping smoking. To increase your chances of living longer, strengthen your social relationships. How? A good conversation with a friend, taking your mom out to lunch, or getting involved in your community are all ways to improve your connections with those around you. Doing so also can lessen feelings of loneliness and improve your health in the long run. The reverse is also true: People who don’t feel supported by those around them report more health problems. People with weak relationships are at risk for earlier death.

Take an inventory of all of your relationships and consider where improvements can be made. Are you putting in the effort needed to keep these ties strong? Doing so will not only enhance your connections to those around you, it also has the potential to add years to your life. 

What’s your cholesterol score?

HPRC Fitness Arena: Nutrition, Total Force Fitness
Learn how to keep your cholesterol numbers in check and lower your risk of heart attack and stroke.

Since the number one killer of men and women in the U.S. is heart disease, it’s important to know your cholesterol numbers. Cholesterol, an important substance made by your liver, forms cell structures, produces hormones, and helps with digestion. Here are the cholesterol numbers to know:

  • Good, or high-density lipoprotein (HDL), cholesterol helps prevent fat and cholesterol from clogging your arteries. Know your HDL: Think H for healthy! A healthy number is greater than 60 mg/dL.
  • Bad, or low-density lipoprotein (LDL), cholesterol can cause cholesterol buildup and block your arteries. Know your LDL: Think L for lousy! A healthy number is less than 100 mg/dL.
  • Your total cholesterol score should be less than 200 mg/dL.

Starting at age 20, get your cholesterol checked every 5 years. Doctors use these numbers along with your age, blood pressure, and weight to help you manage your cardiac health. Smoking, diabetes, and heredity play important roles too.

There are ways to manage your cholesterol and heart health! Regular physical activity can lower LDL and raise HDL. A diet low in saturated fats can help as well, so make sure to check out the New Dietary Guidelines for Americans.

Empathy vs. sympathy: What’s the difference?

HPRC Fitness Arena: Family & Relationships, Mind Body
Trying to “solve” people’s emotional woes might not solve anything. Learn more about the differences between sympathy and empathy.

Ever have well-meaning people tell you to shake off feelings of sadness, frustration, or disappointment? It probably didn’t help. Similarly, when someone else is hurting, especially someone you love, you might try too hard to fix it. Empathy is feeling someone else’s emotions and letting that person know you fully understand. Sympathy is observing troubling events in someone’s life and letting that person know you’re concerned.

Sympathy is sometimes useful, such as when you want to maintain boundaries or focus on the task at hand, but it’s potentially less impactful than empathy. Make a difference with PACT: Purpose, Awareness, Compassion, and Treaty.

Purpose: Is your goal to let someone know you care (sympathy: e.g., “I wish this wasn’t happening to you; maybe we should talk about something less upsetting?”), or are you aiming to connect more deeply (empathy: e.g., “It feels like maybe part of you wants to talk about this more and part of you wants to set it aside right now.”)?

Awareness: Are you “observing” the person from afar (sympathy: e.g., “I hate that you’ve been having such a hard time lately.”), or trying to see the world through their eyes (empathy: e.g., “It feels like nothing is going right lately.”)?

Compassion: You can try to understand somebody based on similar personal experiences or you can use your imagination to understand more deeply, putting yourself in the other person’s “shoes.”

Treaty: With sympathy, you might feel pulled to agree with someone (e.g., “Yup, you got kicked around.”), but that might also prevent him or her from considering alternative viewpoints. With empathy, you can tune into how somebody feels without necessarily agreeing with that person (e.g., “You feel abused, and it’s hard not to feel like a victim right now.”).

Try PACT daily and decide what’s helpful: empathy or sympathy.

Nootropics on your mind?

If you’re looking for cognitive enhancers or “smart drugs,” you may want to think twice.

Many dietary supplement products are marketed as nootropics—substances intended to improve memory, focus, and overall mental performance. While some products contain vitamins, minerals, and plant-based ingredients, others contain drugs that are not legal dietary supplement ingredients. Read the Operation Supplement Safety (OPSS) FAQ about nootropics to learn more about these products and whether they are safe and effective.

Not all ingredients found in dietary supplements are legal, so read product labels carefully. For more information, visit FDA’s Dietary Supplement Products & Ingredients.

How breaking up can be good for you

To help you get over a breakup, try reflecting on the positive aspects of the split and then writing about it.

The end of a relationship might bring feelings of sadness and stress. But breaking up can be good for you when separating from a relationship leads to self-growth. How can you make this happen? To get there, reflect on the benefits of breaking up and write them down. What can you do now that you weren’t able to do before?

Writing out what led to the break-up, how the breakup happened, and what happened after the break-up can reduce your negative thoughts about the split. Venting to a friend definitely has its place, but to capitalize on the split, focus on what is (or was) going on for you during this time by writing about it. This can help you examine any red flags you might have overlooked or any patterns that you might have developed in how you select partners. Consider how you contributed to the relationship not working and what you might be able to do differently in the future. This self-reflection can lead to powerful conclusions.

You probably know people who seem to choose the same kind of person or relationship every time, and it ends up not working out in the end or not being good for them. Don’t be one of them! By taking some time to write down and reflect on your last relationship, you might be saving yourself from future angst. 

The need for speed workouts

Looking to improve your 2-mile time or set a new 5K personal record (PR)? Learn how to train smarter and faster.

“Long slow-distance runs,” the coaching phrase goes, “make long slow-distance runners.” A leisurely long run isn’t bad for you—it just means that if you want to run faster, you have to train faster. Mix it up instead and incorporate speed workouts into your runs: interval, tempo, and fartlek.

Always include a warm-up and cooldown with your workout. Limit speed workouts to twice a week and get enough rest and recovery in between. Actively rest by going on a lighter run or bike ride, or even doing some yoga. Learn more about how speed workouts can ramp up your performance. Read more...

Performance Triad has grown!

HPRC Fitness Arena: Total Force Fitness
Sleep, activity, and nutrition are crucial for Total Force Fitness. Learn more about them through the Army’s Performance Triad.

The Performance Triad is an Army program that focuses on 3 key areas to enhance the health and performance of Soldiers and their families: sleep, activity, and nutrition. HPRC has featured articles about the Performance Triad since it was launched in 2013, but the program has been growing steadily. That means it’s time for a visit to explore the wealth of materials now available, including information and graphic products about:

  • personal health assessment
  • back-to-school tips
  • nutrition and oral health
  • fitness activities for families
  • pets
  • sleep, travel, and time zones
  • goal setting
  • advice for leaders
  • Army-specific resources

Whether you’ve been there before, or you’re just finding out, take time now to visit HPRC’s introduction to the Performance Triad to get started. Look for links on the Performance Triad home page to their Facebook and Twitter feeds too. Learn how these 3 performance areas can contribute to your total fitness.

Sleep Awareness Week

Filed under: Health, Napping, Sleep
Sleep Awareness Week is March 6-13! Take this week to learn how healthy sleep can improve safety and performance.

The National Sleep Foundation (NSF) is making sure everyone knows about the importance of sleep. A balanced lifestyle includes proper nutrition, physical fitness, and healthy sleep. A good night’s rest can especially improve your performance on-duty and off-duty.

HPRC offers many resources to help you learn about sleep, assess your own rest patterns, and improve your sleep habits. Also be sure to check out NSF's site, where you can download helpful sleep tips, an infographic with ideas on how to “celebrate” Sleep Awareness Week, and additional healthy-sleep tools.

Stretching your food dollars

HPRC Fitness Arena: Nutrition, Total Force Fitness
Filed under: Food, Money
Stop before you shop! Learn how to meet your nutrition goals without busting your grocery budget.

What’s the secret to shopping smarter and saving money at the grocery store? You want to choose healthy foods and eat well, but you’re noticing that too many of your hard-earned food dollars seem to vanish. Stores are setup to help you spend your money! You need to be as shrewd as detectives when you shop.

There are no legal ways around paying taxes, but try these 9 money-saving strategies when food shopping. You just might find more dollars in your wallet at the end of the month!  Read more...

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