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.
If your partner “vapes” with nicotine or uses e-cigarettes, you might be at risk for inhaling harmful secondhand “smoke.” E-cigarettes don’t produce actual smoke, but they do produce emissions with aerosol particles that contain nicotine, glycerin, artificial flavorings, and preservatives. We don’t yet know how harmful these emissions might be. On the flip side, there also isn’t clear evidence that breathing these emissions is safe.
E-cigarettes are electronic devices that vaporize liquid nicotine and other substances to be inhaled. Still underexplored, the impact of e-cigarettes on health has gained recent attention. Since e-cigarettes were not initially regulated by FDA, the ingredients in the devices were originally unlabeled. Studies suggest that in addition to nicotine, e-cigarettes sometimes include harmful chemicals that are carcinogens. Beginning in 2018, all e-cigarette packages will contain a warning label that indicates they contain nicotine, an addictive chemical.
Your partner’s e-cigarette habits can potentially impact the health of both of you. If you’re concerned about the unknown impact of e-cigarettes, have an open conversation about the topic. Consider the following tips:
- Become knowledgeable about what’s known and unknown about e-cigarettes and nicotine before bringing up the conversation.
- Gently bring up the topic. Start with something such as “I was wondering if we could talk about the use of e-cigarettes in the house?”
- Mention that you’ve been reading about the health implications of e-cigarette vaping. You’ve grown concerned about how much is unknown and the potential harm.
- Ask your partner what he or she knows about how e-cigarettes might impact one’s health.
- Suggest coming up with a plan to minimize vaping indoors and especially around those who prefer to avoid inhaling the secondhand emissions.
- Offer to support your partner through trying to cut back on or quit using e-cigarettes.
- Express appreciation for supporting one another’s health.
You can’t always believe the marketing claims, advertisements, or even labels of dietary supplement products. That’s because the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) doesn’t approve or evaluate supplements for safety, quality, or effectiveness before they are sold on the market. FDA can, however, take action if a product is later found to be adulterated or misbranded or cause harm. Still, sometimes it can be hard to tell which supplements are safe and which you should leave on the shelf. To learn more, take a few minutes to watch this video from Operation Supplement Safety about Decoding the Dietary Supplement Industry.
Before you gobble up your Thanksgiving dinner, consider starting your day off with a calorie burn! Pretty much wherever you are, you can find a road race—Turkey Trot, Drumstick Dash, or Gobble Gait—and most are family friendly.
If you’re prone to “holiday stress,” particularly if you’re hosting, it can be a great way to relieve some tension and mentally prepare for the day ahead. If you’re not up for the race crowds, or there isn’t a race nearby, there are lots of other options for getting in some exercise. Find a quiet road for a quick run, go for a bike ride, or enjoy some fall foliage on a hike. Whatever floats your gravy boat.
Happy Thanksgiving! Thank you to all service members and their families too.
When Warfighters are wounded, ill, or in the midst of a major transition, focusing on strengths can help boost confidence and morale and instill hope during recovery. Human nature makes it so that you’re already hardwired to notice the bad more than the good. When you’re struggling to get well or are in transition, it’s even easier to get stuck thinking only about deficiencies and weaknesses.
You probably have spent lots of time contemplating how you could be better. Try asking yourself any of these questions to help you think more deeply about your strengths.
- What is right about me?
- When do I feel most true to myself?
- Who am I when I’m at my best?
- What strengths do I bring to the table at home and at work?
- What do others appreciate about me?
Reflecting on your strengths can help you shine the light on your internal resources and overcome adversity. If you’re able to mobilize certain strengths—such as bravery, kindness, and humor—you might temper the impact that physical illness can have on your well-being. Managing physical or psychological illness also can give way to the development of personal strengths and resources. Using these strengths daily can prevent burnout and enhance overall satisfaction with your life.
Show your strengths: Wounded warriors likely spend a lot of time deliberating what’s wrong. Consider the benefits of also highlighting what’s right and how you can use your strengths during healing.
To take a survey about your character strengths, visit the VIA Institute on Character page. Check out the Office of Warrior Care Policy page for resources and tips to help raise awareness about Warrior Care Month too.
HPRC wishes a Happy 241st Birthday to the U.S. Marine Corps!
On November 10, 1775, the Second Continental Congress passed a resolution—sponsored by John Adams—that established the Marine Corps. In its infancy, the Marine Corps was instrumental during key battles of the Revolutionary War. The Marines also were an important part of major land and sea battles during the Civil War and the War of 1812.
There are over 180,000 active-duty Marines and more than 108,000 Individual Ready Reserve (IRR) Marines currently serving the Corps. Women began serving in 1918. Now serving in 93% of all occupational fields and 62% of all billets, they make up about 7% of the total Corps. In 2015, more than 14,000 Marines deployed to locations such as Kuwait, Bahrain, and Iraq, leaving over 12,000 loved ones at home.
Marine Corps birthday celebrations will be numerous! The Marine Corps Heritage Foundation in Dumfries, VA and the National Museum of the Marine Corps in Triangle, VA will host cake-cutting ceremonies on November 10. The annual Commandant’s Marine Corps Birthday Ball will be held on November 12 at the National Harbor in Maryland.
Take time to thank a Marine for her or his service this November 10. Check out the 241st Marine Corps Birthday Message video too.
Garcinia cambogia, a pumpkin-like fruit, is a popular dietary supplement ingredient in products marketed for weight loss. Although Garcinia cambogia has been marketed as a weight-loss aid for quite some time, the latest scientific research still hasn’t proven its effectiveness. To learn more, read the updated Operation Supplement Safety (OPSS) FAQ about Garcinia cambogia.
If you’re looking for ways to lose weight, OPSS and HPRC always recommend choosing foods first before considering dietary supplements. Visit HPRC’s Fighting Weight Strategies, where you’ll find joint-service and service-specific programs to help you achieve your goals.
Turn small nutrition goals into healthy habits! A habit is a behavior pattern acquired by frequent repetition. It’s an action associated with a cue that’s associated with a performance. For example, service members always cover their heads before stepping outside. The cue is “going outside,” and the action that follows is “putting on your cover.”
Once you form a habit, you do the action without thinking. And if you don’t do it, you likely will realize that something isn’t quite right. These same principles can be linked to changing healthy eating behaviors. So, use these tips to make a new “healthy eating habit.”
- Set a small goal. You might think, “I’ll eat an apple every day.”
- Plan a simple action you can do daily. You might think, “Every time I work out, I’ll eat an apple afterwards.”
- Choose a time and place to perform the action. You might think, “I’ll go to the gym every afternoon.”
- Do the action during the designated time. The cue is “working out,” and the action that follows is “eating an apple.”
- Write it down. Sometimes it helps to keep a written record while you’re working on a new goal. Doing so can help you track progress and celebrate successes.
It’s commonly thought that it takes 21 days to form a new habit. However, recent evidence suggests it actually takes 66 days to 10 weeks before the habit’s yours for good. Remember: It gets easier each day that you do it. Before long, you won’t be thinking about it at all. The more you tie your actions to cues and make the actions automatic, the easier it will be to include the habit into your daily life.
Still, you might experience setbacks along the way. Don’t get discouraged. Try again the next day. Take the time to make one new eating habit, which will give you confidence to make other healthy changes!
Caregivers are a pillar of strength for Warfighters who struggle with trauma, illness, or injury, but caring can come at a cost. Perhaps as many as 1 million spouses, siblings, parents, and friends are former or current caregivers for Iraq and Afghanistan veterans alone. Military caregivers serve a critical role—from managing day-to-day activities, to being a legal advocate, to helping navigate a complex health system—all the while juggling career and family responsibilities. If you’re a caregiver, here are a few ways to build and maintain your resilience:
- Grow a robust support network. Just because others rely on you doesn’t mean you don’t need your own support system. The kinds of support most helpful for caregivers include sources of medical information, training opportunities, and networking with other caregivers. Within your family, be sure to regularly strengthen ties with each other and find opportunities to experience positive emotions.
- Set collective goals. Caregivers often abandon their own personal goals and aspirations to care for others and feel guilty when doing things for themselves. Creating shared goals that you can reach for together can shift the perception from caregiver and care-receiver to a partnership. Overcoming obstacles in areas outside of recovery can increase teamwork and boost morale and motivation.
- Embrace the suck. Cultivating optimism offers many benefits in the recovery process, but unrealistic optimism can impede effective problem solving and lead to feeling disappointed. It also can feel oppressive having to “always be positive” on days when nothing seems to be working. When you have bad days, practice acceptance and compassion. Suffering makes way for meaning, and if today isn’t a good day, reflect on what you might learn from it, and let it go.
Caregivers enable Warfighter resilience, but they often need to bolster their own ability to bounce back. You also can try these other helpful tips for caregivers. November is Warrior Care Month. For more information, visit the Office of Warrior Care Policy.
When it was first announced that lesbian, gay, and bisexual (LGB) service members could openly serve in the military, some suggested unit cohesion—how teammates unite, stick together, and remain close—would suffer. Others wondered whether missions would be successful and if straight service members would be comfortable sharing bathrooms and showers with their LGB peers.
Since the repeal of Don’t Ask Don’t Tell (DADT) in 2011, there’s been little evidence to suggest negative effects on unit cohesion or the military’s ability to carry out missions. Similarly, the Israel Defense Forces (IDF) has observed no changes in military performance or unit cohesion since it began allowing gays and lesbians to openly serve in 1993. Shared dedication to a mission enhances performance and builds unit cohesion.
Since the repeal of DADT, LGB service members can serve without fear of being harassed or discharged. This enables them to fully devote their attention to their jobs. It’s possible the repeal also will help reduce rates of substance abuse and mental health struggles among LGB service members because they might no longer endure the stigma and stress from hiding their sexual orientation. In addition, straight service members report feeling comfortable working alongside their LGB teammates.
Read more about the DoD policies on sexual orientation and gender identity in HPRC’s Sex, Sexuality, & Intimacy FAQs section and about sex and the military on our Sex, Sexuality, & Intimacy Resources page.
Compression garments come in a variety of sleeves, socks, shorts, and full-body suits. The amount of pressure, or compression, they provide depends on the type and size of the garment. Compression garments help push blood toward your heart and prevent it from “pooling” or collecting in the compressed areas. Compression sleeves also are used in clinical settings for those with lymphedema, where blood circulation is poor, or to prevent blood clots.
But can they increase your performance and decrease your recovery times? Compression garments have been shown to help blood flow to working muscles during exercise, but that necessarily doesn’t translate to better performance. Most studies look at compression socks during running, and most evidence suggests no difference in athletes’ performance levels during runs when compared to those not wearing compression socks. In addition, there’s no decrease in recovery time or blood-lactate levels.
Still, those wearing compression socks report “feeling better” and “less tiredness” in their legs during their runs. They also feel less sore following the exercise bout. And while there might not be an actual benefit of wearing compression gear, if you feel better wearing it—either during or after exercise—then keep doing what works!