by Brian Tomasik
First written: 8 Apr. 2015; last update: 14 Oct. 2017

## Summary

This page collects some health guidelines that I find important enough to actively adhere to. I made it mainly as a reminder for myself, but perhaps others will also benefit. I haven't done quantitative cost-benefit calculations for most of these points because data are often hard to find. In many cases, just following a precautionary rule is less work than researching the topic in enough depth to calculate how important it is to actually follow the rule.

This page omits many obvious points (e.g., wash your hands, get enough sleep, eat fruits and veggies) and so shouldn't be considered exhaustive.

## Supplements

I currently take the following:

### Multivitamin

It's not clear whether multivitamins make any difference to health, but it seems plausibly safer to take them, and they're so cheap that cost shouldn't be a relevant factor. My current choice is Centrum Men's Multivitamin/Multimineral Supplement, but I haven't done much research. I don't know if multivitamins specifically for men are better than generic adult multivitamins.

### Vitamin D and K2

Multivitamins don't have enough vitamin D. Typically they contain 400 IU, which is called "100%", but this is inadequate in my opinion. A recent analysis suggested that the current RDA for vitamin D may be 10 times too low and recommends 7000 IU/day. I don't know how to square this with existing recommendations against more than 4000 IU/day for adults. Currently I get 2900 IU per day: 400 from a multivitamin and 2500 from taking half of this vitamin D and K2 (MK7 form) supplement. I chose that supplement specifically rather than a vitamin-D-only supplement because some people recommend taking K2 with vitamin D: "For every 5,000–10,000 units of D3 being recommended and tested for, we are recommending 100 mcg of K2 mk7 to be sure and prevent the inappropriate calcification that higher doses of D3 alone could cause." Some claim the MK7 supplement form of K2 is better than the MK4 supplement form, while others contend that MK4 has more evidence of bone-health benefits.

### Vitamin B12

B12 is especially important for vegans. This piece recommends:

1. Eat fortified foods two or three times a day to get at least three micrograms (mcg or µg) of B12 a day or
2. Take one B12 supplement daily providing at least 10 micrograms or
3. Take a weekly B12 supplement providing at least 2000 micrograms.

The relationship between dose size and time between doses is very nonlinear. Let t be the time interval between doses in days, and let m be the mcg required per dose. I don't know the exact shape of the curve for t as a function of m, but here are some possibilities, fit to the data points that t(10) = 1 and t(2000) = 7:

 Curve type Fit equation How often to take a 1000-mcg tablet? Logarithmic t(m) = 2.1215 * log10(m - 7.04) every 6.4 days Square root t(m) = 0.14437 * sqrt(m) + 0.54345 every 5.1 days Generic power t(m) = 0.42927 * m0.36727 every 5.4 days

All told, taking a 1000-mcg tablet every 5-6 days seems good.

## Computer

Buy a computer with lots of RAM, since this is the most important factor for making things run fast. In 2015, I got a ~$600 Windows laptop that came with 12 GB of RAM. Kill Chrome/etc. processes that are hogging CPU. Sometimes I notice that my computer's fan is running at full speed even though it doesn't seem as though my computer is doing anything. By looking at Windows Task Manager -> Processes and sorting by CPU, I sometimes see that there are random Chrome processes that are hogging ~25% of the CPU non-stop, day in and day out. Or there might be programs that are not responding and hogging CPU. Ending these tasks can save CPU calculations, electricity, and fan noise. Often, CPU-hogging pages have lots of ads on them, and you can see them running in Chrome when the circle for the page's tab doesn't stop spinning. When using Unix commands, be careful with the rm command because it permanently deletes files rather than sending them to the Trash can. jm666 gives an example of a particularly disastrous error: $ pwd
/
\$ cd /tnp; rm -rf *
sh: cd: /tnp: No such file or directory


Because the cd command fails, the working directory stays as /, and almost everything on the system gets permanently deleted. Personally, outside of scripts, I tend to delete things using the mouse rather than with rm in order to have more visibility over what I'm doing.

## Optional: Disable JavaScript by default

In 2017, I decided to try changing Chrome's settings to disable JavaScript by default. You can enable JavaScript selectively for trusted domains, which means you can continue using Gmail, Facebook, and so on as before. I agree with Finley (2015) that the experience of doing this was "glorious". Sites that had previously been filled with flashy ads that hogged CPU and loaded slowly were now quiescent and fast to load.

Of course, most of these benefits would already be captured by an adblocker. And there seem to be other plugins that let you intelligently disable JavaScript in selective ways. For now I'm using Chrome's built-in settings as a poor man's solution, but maybe I'll check out more advanced plugins in the future.

The only downside I've experienced so far is that some pages use JavaScript to load images or certain other content, but of course, you can enable JavaScript for any given domain if doing so seems worthwhile. If you want to enable JavaScript on one particular page without whitelisting the whole domain, you can

1. open the page in another browser where you haven't disabled JavaScript, or
2. open Google's cached version of the web page if you allow JavaScript on the webcache.googleusercontent.com domain.

Hoffman (2013) belittles the idea of turning off JavaScript. He says: "The security benefits of disabling JavaScript are dubious, and you will give up so much of the modern web if you do. You can whitelist websites to only run JavaScript on certain websites, but that’s a never-ending task that will take precious time." Really? Whitelisting a domain takes like 5 seconds on Chrome, except in rare cases where you have to whitelist a domain by pasting the url into Chrome's whitelist by hand because a redirect problem on the site prevents whitelisting it from the Omnibox. I doubt I'll ever whitelist more than a few hundred total domains. So the total time cost is on the order of ~an hour, while the benefits in terms of page load time, avoiding annoyances, etc. are significant, not to mention some security improvement as well.

Davis (2015), a McAfee article, says that one way to reduce the risk of malvertising is to "Turn off JavaScript. JavaScript is a programming language common to online ads. Unfortunately, this language suffers from a lot of vulnerabilities, meaning cybercriminals may use it to target and infect victims."

## Opinion: Why is health education not better?

When I was in 10th grade, I remarked to a friend something like this: "You know what subject isn't taught enough in school? Health. It's more useful than most other academic topics yet receives so little attention." I still agree with this sentiment. It's puzzling that schools spend so much time teaching the names of the first European explorers of North America or the themes in To Kill a Mockingbird and so little time on topics you'll need to know about for the rest of your life, like "How to properly wash your hands" or "How to avoid phishing".

The health courses I took in school did cover a few topics extensively: drugs, alcohol, smoking, HIV, eating disorders, and suicide. Beyond that, coverage was skimpy. We weren't taught about elementary topics like how to properly brush your teeth or check your moles for signs of skin cancer. We were taught nothing about computer security or identity theft. (Perhaps this is understandable, since these topics are somewhat new, and governments are slow.) We were also taught basically nothing about financial health: how to invest, how to use a credit card, or what affects a credit score. We learned nothing about proper etiquette in social contexts, such as how to put on a tie, how to eat at business dinners, or how to apply for a job. There are many more life skills that most people need to know (and that would contribute to greater social mobility) but that are never taught in school. Akins (2014) gives some further examples.

Maybe those who design school curricula assume that people will learn the life skills anyway, and school's job is to teach about more abstract topics that people won't necessarily learn otherwise. But in practice, it seems that many people don't learn the relevant life skills well enough or early enough. Over a decade after the end of high school, I'm still learning life skills, some of which I wish I had known sooner.

I suspect that many people learn life skills through informal channels, including chitchat with friends, portrayals in TV/movies, and the news. But none of these are ideal, since chitchat can propagate myths, TV/movies are fictional, and news often doesn't give a proper sense of priority among risks (such as between the threat of terrorism vs. the threat of Lyme disease). Nonetheless, these informal channels of learning life skills are better than nothing, and this observation confutes the supercilious notion that gossip and TV are "a worthless waste of time".

## Footnotes

1. My only concern now is that the mask sometimes slides a bit during the night, and sometimes the positions it slides to are not obviously completely harmless from the perspective of eye pressure. One possible solution is to keep the sleep cover very loose to reduce the downside risk from in-the-night movement of the cover. On the other hand, keeping the mask very tight can reduce sliding from happening in the first place. Is there any long-term harm in having a tight sleep mask pressed against your face (without touching your eyes) for ~8 hours each day? I've also found that completely unstrapping the mask in the back reduces sliding and pressure on my face, although the mask doesn't block out light as well.  (back)
2. Is this "extra computer" strategy necessary if you also use two-factor authentication, since that should already protect against your password being stolen by keylogging? I'm unsure, but it seems there are many bad things that malware can do that would be good to avoid. For example, if you "remember this computer" to avoid logging in using two-factor authentication each time, malware with access to your computer could copy whatever cookie or other information is used to remember your computer and thereby bypass two-factor authentication.  (back)