The Healthy Ration Pack Veterans Guide to Self Help

Laughter is good for the ha-ha-heart

A daily dose of laughter may be good for the heart because, like exercise, it makes blood vessels work more efficiently, US researchers say. Their study, shows how psychological factors can affect a person’s health. They don’t recommend that you laugh and not exercise, but do recommend that you try to laugh on a regular basis. Thirty minutes of exercise three times a week, and 15 minutes of laughter on a daily basis is probably good for the vascular system.

The researchers specifically looked at the endothelium, the lining of the vessels, and found that blood flow was reduced in 14 of the 20 volunteers after stressful movie clips. But blood flowed more freely in 19 of the 20 when they laughed at funny movie segments. Average blood flow increased 22% during laughter, and decreased 35% during mental stress, they told the meeting.

The endothelium is the first line in the development of atherosclerosis or hardening of the arteries, so, given the results of their study, it is conceivable that laughing may be important to maintain a healthy endothelium, and reduce the risk of cardiovascular disease. Laughter may be almost as helpful as exercise.

The magnitude of change seen in the endothelium is similar to the benefit we might see with aerobic activity, but without the aches, pains and muscle tension associated with exercise. What the researchers couldn’t tell was how exactly laughter benefits the endothelium.

Does the benefit come from the movement of the diaphragm muscles as you chuckle or guffaw, or does it come from a chemical release triggered by laughter, such as endorphins? Perhaps mental stress leads to a breakdown in nitric oxide or inhibits a stimulus to produce nitric oxide that results in vasoconstriction.

Men's Peer Health Education Program

In February 2000, I snapped. I snapped so badly I was diagnosed with Chronic PTSD. I didn’t know that’s what it was, I thought it was because I hated the owner of the Company I worked for, despised my boss for the lack of support he gave and the difficulty I had trying to convince them both that every individual in that company was a valued employee. There comes a time when the bottle fills and overflows, that’s what happened to me. I could no longer suppress my anger and I erupted like a volcano.

So what’s that got to do with Chronic PTSD? How can that relate to the Vietnam War? You see some War Veterans suffer because they did a couple of tours and saw lots of horrific things, some experienced their mates being killed, some experienced being shot at, blown up, ambushed and others just being there was enough to result in them suffering for many years. Most of us agree that the lack of recognition of the Vietnam War was enough to make us bitter and angry for the rest of our lives.

Well my case is no different. Until I saw my psych (and I can only thank him for his guidance), I suffered with guilt. My guilt was in the form of having to leave my section behind. Here I was the green clad jungle killer, trained to ruthless efficiency, regular soldier, full time killing machine, six foot two, 15 stone and as tough as the boots I was issued with. How do you hide from the fact, you were the leader, the one that was going to make sure they were all ready for any adversity, they were all going to come home because you were the one that was going to keep this section together. It didn’t happen that way. Someone didn’t read the script.

For some unknown reason I was losing weight very quickly, I was finding it difficult to keep food down and I was semi-conscious for some time, thinking to myself when will the lights be on all the time. Before I knew it I was being medivaced home. Didn’t tell me why, didn’t tell my section, the bastards didn’t even tell my family. I was in Daw Park two weeks before my folks knew.

So for 34 years I just felt this constant overwhelming feeling of guilt, which was manifesting into anger. I left my Section behind. I didn’t even say goodbye. They didn’t even know where I was and no one told them what was happening with me. 34 years of anger eating at me. My wife knew, my kids knew…….I didn’t, I though this was normal behaviour. I thought working 12, 14, 16 hours a day was normal.I thought getting angry with the boss all the time was normal. I thought changing jobs every couple of years was normal. I thought waking up every morning at 4.00am was normal. Guilt, was eating me up from the inside, the anger was overwhelming. I even worked on the same shift with one of my section members and did not talk once about our experiences in Vietnam. How could I? I left him behind, what could I say to him. I didn’t even ask him how he felt about the whole crazy memory called Vietnam. I didn’t even ask him about the rest of the Section. It took 34 years to make contact with my 2i/c. How sad.

So what’s all this got to do with Men’s Health? Well the above experience has taught me that my attitude has had a lot to do with how I am recovering from the guilt and the anger. I have also learnt that attitudes and values have a huge impact on a healthy lifestyle and I have also recognised that it’s never too late to change the way you live by changing the way you think and act. The guilt and anger is still there. I’ve just learnt to manage it. I’ve learnt that I have no control of the past, but I sure as hell can make a difference to my future, my relationship with my wife and family and especially my health.

In the New Year I will be running a series of programs for the VVF as an initiative of the DVA. The program is called Men’s Health Peer Education. The sessions are as follows:

  • Session 1 Being a Digger and a Bloke
  • Session 2 Talking to your Doctor
  • Session 3 Vascular Diseases and Diabetes
  • Session 4 Mental Health
  • Session 5 Your Lungs
  • Session 6 Pills, Potions, Drugs and Alcohol
  • Session 7 Cancer
  • Session 8 Sexuality and Intimacy
  • Session 9 Living with Chronic Illness and Pain

Each session is discussed by the group and then the group decides on the next steps, ie bring in the specialists, support people etc. The group decides. My aim is to bring some fun to somewhat boring but very important factors that are affecting us now and will in the future.

Prostate Cancer

A GP will tell any male that when they reach 50 they are more likely to suffer from prostate problems and a yearly check (finger up the bum) is recommended. Not all of us warm to the idea, but it is especially important for Vietnam veterans to have this checked regularly.

The RMA, the experts that determine the Statements of Principals (SOP) believe that service in Vietnam is the most common service related reason for prostate cancer.
The ‘factors’ of concern for Vietnam veterans are:

a.spraying or decanting a herbicide containing 2,4-dichloro-phenoxyacetic acid (2,4-D) or 2,4,5-trichlorophenoxyacetic acid (2,4,5-T), in circumstances likely to result in inhalation or absorption of the herbicide, at least five years before the clinical onset of malignant neoplasm of the prostate; or

b.being on land in Vietnam or at sea in Vietnamese waters, for at least 30 days, at least five years before the clinical onset of malignant neoplasm of the prostate.

There is no need to panic but… if you have any of the following symptoms we suggest you have them checked out.

  • Hesitancy of urination
  • Incontinence
  • Urinating frequently
  • Weak urine stream
  • Dribbling urine
  • eeling as if bladder not empty after urinating

If you have any of THESE symptoms get an appointment with your GP immediately.

  • Painful or burning sensation when urinating
  • Painful ejaculation
  • Blood in urine or semen
  • Discomfort or pain in the lower back, upper thighs, buttocks area or along one side of the penis
  • Severe incontinence of urine.