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the unofficial, unauthorized online reference manual for the real life super hero community






" There is no more honored sterward than he who compassionately serves; not out of subjugation, but moral obligation."

HERO HEALTH
Tips on maintaining your health and well being

    I know what you're thinking;

    
Get real. 

    You're probably a grown adult, reading this blog about people living vicariously through a supposedly fantasy or roleplaying experience who think they are going to go change the world clad in spandex and a cowl. Be honest, you thought it was a joke. 

    You even giggled a little at first. Maybe even a booger shot out of your nose a bit when you scoffed audibly. A person with duel identities that goes out in parades around in a cape? "There are nerds who do actually this crap?! ", you exclaimed. Then it slowly dawned on you after an article in the newspaper, or a site dedicated entirely to RLSH, that this was a reality of modern times. 

    We are indeed. But we are human, all of us. And the stresses of an ordinary everyday life are magnified exponentially when living a double life. The relationships with family, friends, and coworkers suddenly become more complex with the addition of fellow RLSH activities. Crusading to make the world has the potential to be highly self-destructive and thankless. Kepping a proper perspective is essential to your survival.  
    
    The ability to separate the job and your personal life is the distinguishing marker between a professional and an amateur. Now, do not take offense to this comment, it's not intended as inflammatory, merely objective. 

    We MUST all accept that there will be minor victories and defeats, and a whole lot of gray in between. this should not dissuade you from your mission of making the world a better place, but instead act as a catalyst to inspire you that there is still more work to be done. 

    I know the mixed feelings on citing works of poplar fiction in the forum as gospel but I think if you allow me, you'll see my point momentarily. This past weekend I finally completed reading Watchmen. Ozymandias saw that in his quest to rid the world of crime and evil, he was only treating the symptoms, never really attacking social ills at their heart. Which is what lead to his plot to instigate a great evil in order to facilitate a greater good. What we need to be aware of is that fact that we will always be treating the symptoms, never really knowing the why behind the actions of criminals, only the why behind our reactions. 

    This is something you must settle on being satisfied with. Not for the sake only of maintaining a measure of distance between you and the crime you're attempting to thwart, but moreover for your over all well-being. 

    Assuming you've been around the community of heroes for any length of time, by now you are aware more than most the cost of defending others will inflict upon your body. You can protect yourself from the largest caliber bullet out there by purchasing futuristic armor that will repel every puncture, ballistic and blunt trauma imaginable. But, if you haven't prepared for the toll this task will take upon you mentally or emotionally, you will sacrifice all of your interpersonal relationships for the cost of quantifiable gratification, justifying your lack of meaningful human contact as an acceptable collateral loss. We aren't Batman, and don't have the resources to keep others at bay to afford the privacy of a personal crusade. 

    If you want my opinion about events like this in the future, do some research and make up some business card with contact info for local social programs including children's services, social workers, shelters, etc. business cards are very cheap at most quick print places; when I was a graphic designer, we would sell 1000 black and white cards for $20, all labor done in-house. Not a bad investment if you really want to address the societal woes by directing people to the proper authorities who are more capable of and properly equipped to handle them. 

    I know it contradicts all the stereotypes you most likely have had ingrained into you by movies and television regarding the bahavior of a typical hero, but as odd as it might sound, you MUST put yourself first. Your well-being will enable you to perform at your best capacity; and when you are stressed to the breaking point, you are beyond offering help to anyone. My recommendation is that you are more than entitled to some "me-time". Get some (or all) of the following: tail, beer, a cigarette, a nap, and/or a vacation. 

    You aren't prepared to save others if you cannot save yourself. 

SHIFT WORK

Sleep deprived from pulling patrols several nights a week?

You ought to be. I'd be willing to bet your eyes have more bags than Miami Airport  luggage claim. God knows I've been an insomniac for about a decade, and the use of coffee and tobacco doesn't help. Shift work has been around for the most of human history, but it was mainly limited to soldiers and sailors. That all changed with the invention of the lightbulb that lengthened workdays with all the worklight employers would ever need. So really the main use of shift work has only been around for about a century. The unfortunate part is, shift work may be good for businesses but it takes it 's toll on workers and their families.

The Effects of Shift Work

Shift work is an employment practice designed to make use of the 24 hours of the clock, rather than a standard working day. The term shift work includes both long-term night shifts and work schedules in which employees change or rotate shifts. Due to the disruption in the circadian rhythm (see Circadian Rhythm) and the impairment of the normal sleep pattern, shift work has been shown to have the following effects:

Chronic fatigue
. Feeling tired is a most common problem among shift workers. Fatigue can also make a person more vulnerable to illness. Fatigue can lead to poor job performance and sagging motivation.

R
eduction in concentration and attention span, increased reaction time. This can lead to mistakes and accidents.

Gastro-intestinal and digestive problems
. Due to the irregular shifts, in many cases a poor diet results. Lack of access to proper cafeteria services at night or other facilities can lead to "junk food" eating. The fatigue feeling can lead to an increase in consumption of caffeine. (link to caffeine information.) Poorer eating can lead to indigestion, heartburn and stomachache. It also can lead to weight gain. For some, shift work results in the loss of appetite.

Increased chance of heart attacks
. This relates to studies that have shown shift workers have poorer dietary habits, smoke more heavily, and participate in fewer leisure activities.

Disruption in family and social life
. Shift work affects the entire family. Due to shift work, family routines can never be fully set. Participation in outside activities such as clubs or sports become complicated. Social isolation can be a real problem for the shift worker.

Safety
. Shift work may be a contributing factor to increased injuries and accidents.

Medication. Shift workers tend to take more medicines and drugs to help them sleep and work. It also has been shown that some medications may not have the same effect on the body of a shift worker as it would for someone working a normal day schedule

ALSO... according to Wikipedia:

The February 15, 2005 issue of American Family Physician noted that shift work has been associated with cluster headaches. The consequences of disturbing natural circadian sleep rhythms has been investigated also.

A study by Knutsson et al in 1986 found that shift workers who had worked in that method for 15 years or more were 300% more likely to develop ischaemic heart disease. Ethan Franklin, Senior Partner at Core Practice Partners, points out that most companies blame shift length for health issues. "This is absolutely the wrong way to look at it," says Franklin. "These health challenges are directly attributed to circadian issues and not length of shift. Companies do an extreme disservice to their workers by limiting alternative scheduling options."

In 1987, working the night shift first became associated with higher rates of cancer. This may be due to alterations in circadian rhythm: melatonin, a known tumor suppressant, is generally produced at night and late shifts may disrupt its production. The International Agency for Research on Cancer, part of the World Health Organization, lists night work as a "probable cause" of cancer since December 5, 2007

CHECK OUT THESE TIPS FOR IMPROVING THE QUALITY OF YOUR SLEEP:

a) Proper diet and eating patterns.

- maintain eating patterns as regular as possible.

- at night, shift workers should eat light and healthy foods.

- before bed after a night shift, have a moderate breakfast so one will not wake up due to hunger or be kept awake because of fullness.

- limit the intake of caffeine, alcohol and salt.

- avoid as much as possible the use of sleeping pills.

b) Sleep maintenance.

- try to sleep on a set schedule to make sleep during the day easier. make sleeping quarters as much like night as possible. Examples include fans or a "white noise" generator to drown out outside daytime noises. Two small fans, one on each side of the bed, drowns out most noises.

- use ear plugs and an eye mask.

- darken the room with heavy blinds or curtains. I use a hardboard (like heavy cardboard) cut to fit the window. Darkness of the room is very important as it prevents the sunlight from interfering with your body clock.

- turn off ringer on any nearby phones. Use an answering machine to field any missed calls. One strategy is to use a beeper that only family members know the number for and can contact you if there is an emergency.

- make sure your family and friends understand the importance of your daytime sleep. Let them know what your schedule is.

- take time for quiet relaxation before bed to ensure better daytime sleep.
- relax using breathing or muscle relaxing techniques.
- block out unpleasant thoughts using mental imagery.
- limit your commitments to late in the day or on another day so you are not thinking about what you need to do before trying to sleep.

c) Other Considerations.

- try to adjust your sleep schedule before you move to a new schedule. For example, going to bed 1 or 2 hours later than usual prior to nights.

- increase your physical fitness. Physical fitness can help reduce stress.

- take leisure time seriously.

- work at communicating and keep communication lines open. Let family and friends know how important your daytime sleep is.

To really get educated, do some more research to find out the physical changes sleep (and the lack of) has on your body. Portions of this blog were taken from: http://members.tripod.com/~shiftworker/index.html

 

SMOKING

Another vice of mine that I will hopefully rid myself of shortly. Read on, for those of you who are with me in our bad habits.

Health Effects of Cigarette Smoking

    Smoking harms nearly every organ of the body; causing many diseases and reducing the health of smokers in general.1 The adverse health effects from cigarette smoking account for an estimated 438,000 deaths, or nearly 1 of every 5 deaths, each year in the United States.2,3 More deaths are caused each year by tobacco use than by all deaths from human immunodeficiency virus (HIV), illegal drug use, alcohol use, motor vehicle injuries, suicides, and murders combined.2,4

Cancer

    Cancer is the second leading cause of death and was among the first diseases causally linked to smoking.1 Smoking causes about 90% of lung cancer deaths in women and almost 80% of lung cancer deaths in men. The risk of dying from lung cancer is more than 23 times higher among men who smoke cigarettes, and about 13 times higher among women who smoke cigarettes compared with never smokers.1 Smoking causes cancers of the bladder, oral cavity, pharynx, larynx (voice box), esophagus, cervix, kidney, lung, pancreas, and stomach, and causes acute myeloid leukemia.1 Rates of cancers related to cigarette smoking vary widely among members of racial/ethnic groups, but are generally highest in African-American men.5

Cardiovascular Disease (Heart and Circulatory System)

    Smoking causes coronary heart disease, the leading cause of death in the United States.1 Cigarette smokers are 2–4 times more likely to develop coronary heart disease than nonsmokers.6 Cigarette smoking approximately doubles a person's risk for stroke.7,8     Cigarette smoking causes reduced circulation by narrowing the blood vessels (arteries). Smokers are more than 10 times as likely as nonsmokers to develop peripheral vascular disease.9 Smoking causes abdominal aortic aneurysm.1

Respiratory Disease and Other Effects

    Cigarette smoking is associated with a tenfold increase in the risk of dying from chronic obstructive lung disease.7 About 90% of all deaths from chronic obstructive lung diseases are attributable to cigarette smoking.1 Cigarette smoking has many adverse reproductive and early childhood effects, including an increased risk for infertility, preterm delivery, stillbirth, low birth weight, and sudden infant death syndrome (SIDS).1 Postmenopausal women who smoke have lower bone density than women who never smoked. Women who smoke have an increased risk for hip fracture than never smokers.10

References

U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. The Health Consequences of Smoking: A Report of the Surgeon General. U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, National Center for Chronic Disease Prevention and Health Promotion, Office on Smoking and Health, 2004 [cited 2006 Dec 5]. Available from: http://www.cdc.gov/tobacco/data_statistics/sgr/sgr_2004/index.htm.

Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Annual Smoking-Attributable Mortality, Years of Potential Life Lost, and Productivity Losses—United States, 1997–2001. Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report [serial online]. 2002;51(14):300–303 [cited 2006 Dec 5]. Available from: http://www.cdc.gov/mmwr/preview/mmwrhtml/mm5114a2.htm.

Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Health United States, 2003, With Chartbook on Trends in the Health of Americans. (PDF–225KB) Hyattsville, MD: CDC, National Center for Health Statistics; 2003 [cited 2006 Dec 5]. Available from: http://www.cdc.gov/nchs/data/hus/tables/2003/03hus031.pdf.

McGinnis J, Foege WH. Actual Causes of Death in the United States. Journal of the American Medical Association 1993;270:2207–2212.

Novotny TE, Giovino GA. Tobacco Use. In: Brownson RC, Remington PL, Davis JR (eds). Chronic Disease Epidemiology and Control. Washington, DC: American Public Health Association; 1998;117–148 [cited 2006 Dec 5].

U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. Reducing the Health Consequences of Smoking—25 Years of Progress: A Report of the Surgeon General. Atlanta, GA: U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, CDC; 1989. DHHS Pub. No. (CDC) 89–8411 [cited 2006 Dec 5]. Available from: http://profiles.nlm.nih.gov/NN/B/B/X/S/.

U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. Tobacco Use Among U.S. Racial/Ethnic Minority Groups—African Americans, American Indians and Alaska Natives, Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders, and Hispanics: A Report of the Surgeon General. Atlanta, GA: U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, CDC; 1998 [cited 2006 Dec 5]. Available from: http://www.cdc.gov/tobacco/data_statistics/sgr/sgr_1998/index.htm.

Ockene IS, Miller NH. Cigarette Smoking, Cardiovascular Disease, and Stroke: A Statement for Healthcare Professionals From the American Heart Association. Journal of American Health Association. 1997;96(9):3243–3247 [cited 2006 Dec 5].

Fielding JE, Husten CG, Eriksen MP. Tobacco: Health Effects and Control. In: Maxcy KF, Rosenau MJ, Last JM, Wallace RB, Doebbling BN (eds.). Public Health and Preventive Medicine. New York: McGraw-Hill;1998;817–845 [cited 2006 Dec 5].

U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. Women and Smoking: A Report of the Surgeon General. Rockville, MD: U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, CDC; 2001 [cited 2006 Dec 5]. Available from: http://www.cdc.gov/tobacco/data_statistics/sgr/sgr_2001/index.htm.

For Further Information

Centers for Disease Control and Prevention
National Center
for Chronic Disease Prevention and Health Promotion
Office on Smoking and Health
E-mail:
tobaccoinfo@cdc.gov
Phone: 1-800-CDC-INFO

Media Inquiries: Contact CDC's Office on Smoking and Health press line at 770-488-5493.

taken from:  http://www.cdc.gov/tobacco/data_statistics/Factsheets/health_effects.htm

 

caffeine

    One of my favorite topics; caffeine. I love it, you love it. But consider some of the health effects. Those who patrol late into the night. or early in the morning.  read on..... "I'm going to put on a kettle," as Black Arrow would say.

    Around 90 percent of Americans consume caffeine in one form or another every single day. More than half of all American adults consume more than 300 milligrams (mg) of caffeine every day, making it America's most popular drug by far. The caffeine comes in from things like coffee, tea, cola, chocolate, etc.

    Have you ever wondered what it is that makes caffeine so popular? What does this drug do that causes its use to be so widespread? In this article, you will learn all about caffeine.

What is Caffeine?

    Caffeine is known medically as trimethylxanthine, and the chemical formula is C8H10N4O2 (see Erowid: Caffeine Chemistry for an image of the molecular structure). When isolated in pure form, caffeine is a white crystalline powder that tastes very bitter. The chief source of pure caffeine is the process of decaffeinating coffee and tea.

    Medically, caffeine is useful as a cardiac stimulant and also as a mild diuretic (it increases urine production). Recreationally, it is used to provide a "boost of energy" or a feeling of heightened alertness. It's often used to stay awake longer -- college students and drivers use it to stay awake late into the night. Many people feel as though they "cannot function" in the morning without a cup of coffee to provide caffeine and the boost it gives them.

    Caffeine is an addictive drug. Among its many actions, it operates using the same mechanisms that amphetamines, cocaine, and heroin use to stimulate the brain. On a spectrum, caffeine's effects are milder than amphetamines, cocaine and heroin, but it is manipulating the same channels, and that is one of the things that give caffeine its addictive qualities. If you feel like you cannot function without it and must consume it every day, then you are addicted to caffeine.

Caffeine in the Diet

    Caffeine occurs naturally in many plants, including coffee beans, tea leaves and cocoa nuts. It is therefore found in a wide range of food products. Caffeine is added artificially to many others, including a variety of beverages. Here are the most common sources of caffeine for Americans:

  • Typical drip-brewed coffee contains 100 mg per 6-ounce cup. If you are buying your coffee at Starbucks or a convenience store or drinking it at home or the office out of a mug or a commuter's cup, you are consuming it in 12-, 14- or 20-ounce containers. You can calculate the number of milligrams based on your normal serving size.
  • Typical brewed tea contains 70 mg per 6-ounce cup.
  • Typical colas (Coke, Pepsi, Mountain Dew, etc.) contain 50 mg per 12-ounce can. Things like Jolt contain 70 mg per 12-ounce can.
  • Typical milk chocolate contains 6 mg per ounce.
  • Anacin contains 32 mg per tablet. No-doz contains 100 mg per tablet. Vivarin and Dexatrim contain 200 mg per tablet.

    By looking at these numbers and by knowing how widespread coffee, tea and cola are in our society, you can see why half of all American adults consume more than 300 mg of caffeine per day. Two mugs of coffee or a mug of coffee and a couple of Cokes during the day are all you need to get you there. If you sit down and calculate your caffeine consumption during a typical day, you may be surprised. Many people consume a gram or more every single day and don't even realize it.

Caffeine and Adenosine

    Why do so many people consume so much caffeine? Why does caffeine wake you up? By understanding the drug's actions inside the body you can see why people use it so much.

    In the HowStuffWorks article How Sleep Works, the action of adenosine is discussed. As adenosine is created in the brain, it binds to adenosine receptors. The binding of adenosine causes drowsiness by slowing down nerve cell activity. In the brain, adenosine binding also causes blood vessels to dilate (presumably to let more oxygen in during sleep).

    To a nerve cell, caffeine looks like adenosine. Caffeine therefore binds to the adenosine receptor. However, it doesn't slow down the cell's activity like adenosine would. So the cell cannot "see" adenosine anymore because caffeine is taking up all the receptors adenosine binds to. So instead of slowing down because of the adenosine level, the cells speed up. You can see that caffeine also causes the brain's blood vessels to constrict, because it blocks adenosine's ability to open them up. This effect is why some headache medicines like Anacin contain caffeine -- if you have a vascular headache, the caffeine will close down the blood vessels and relieve it.

    So now you have increased neuron firing in the brain. The pituitary gland sees all of the activity and thinks some sort of emergency must be occurring, so it releases hormones that tell the adrenal glands to produce adrenaline (epinephrine). Adrenaline is the "fight or flight" hormone, and it has a number of effects on your body:

  • Your pupils dilate.
  • Your breathing tubes open up (this is why people suffering from severe asthma attacks are sometimes injected with epinephrine).
  • Your heart beats faster.
  • Blood vessels on the surface constrict to slow blood flow from cuts and also to increase blood flow to muscles. Blood pressure rises.
  • Blood flow to the stomach slows.
  • The liver releases sugar into the bloodstream for extra energy.
  • Muscles tighten up, ready for action.

    This explains why, after consuming a big cup of coffee, your hands get cold, your muscles tense up, you feel excited and you can feel your heart beat increasing.

Caffeine and Dopamine

    Caffeine also increases dopamine levels in the same way that amphetamines do (heroine and cocaine also manipulate dopamine levels by slowing down the rate of dopamine re-uptake). Dopamine is a neurotransmitter that, in certain parts of the brain, activates the pleasure center. Obviously, caffeine's effect is much lower than heroin's, but it is the same mechanism. It is suspected that the dopamine connection contributes to caffeine addiction.

    So you can see why your body might like caffeine in the short term, especially if you are low on sleep and need to remain active. Caffeine blocks adenosine reception so you feel alert. It injects adrenaline into the system to give you a boost. And it manipulates dopamine production to make you feel good.

    The problem with caffeine is the longer-term effects, which tend to spiral. For example, once the adrenaline wears off, you face fatigue and depression. So what are you going to do? You take more caffeine to get the adrenaline going again. As you might imagine, having your body in a state of emergency all day long isn't very healthy, and it also makes you jumpy and irritable.

    The most important long-term problem is the effect that caffeine has on sleep. Adenosine reception is important to sleep, and especially to deep sleep. The half-life of caffeine in your body is about 6 hours. That means that if you consume a big cup of coffee with 200 mg of caffeine in it at 3:00 PM, by 9:00 PM about 100 mg of that caffeine is still in your system. You may be able to fall asleep, but your body probably will miss out on the benefits of deep sleep. That deficit adds up fast. The next day you feel worse, so you need caffeine as soon as you get out of bed. The cycle continues day after day.

    This is why 90% of Americans consume caffeine every day. Once you get in the cycle, you have to keep taking the drug. Even worse, if you try to stop taking caffeine, you get very tired and depressed and you get a terrible, splitting headache as blood vessels in the brain dilate. These negative effects force you to run back to caffeine even if you want to stop.

Taken from: http://health.howstuffworks.com/caffeine.htm  

For more information on caffeine and related topics, check out: 
http://www.pe2000.com/caffeine.htm

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