Whew. Suddenly, it’s 2012. How did that happen? And why do you feel limper than leftover ribbon? OK, maybe you stayed up too late a couple of nights (the easy-to-assemble bike wasn’t, the open house next door never closed). Still, it wasn’t a total marathon.
We know the feeling. It’s called multi-multitasking. During the holidays, not only are you juggling the usual load (and "the usual" seems to increase by 10 percent every year), but you’re also trying to squeeze in 103 extra things, look your best, be charming and show up more often than Ryan Seacrest.
It reminds us of the study a few years ago that measured the effect of endless e-mails and phone calls on your brain: Your IQ falls by 10 points. We feel like ours falls by 20. Nonstop stimulation doesn’t make you quicker and smarter; it makes you slower and dumber. Like losing a night’s sleep.
How to regain all 10 points or more? You know how much we talk about using meditation to dial down life’s craziness and boost brain power? Start by restoring your inner tranquility. Go on, try it.
• Find a quiet place where you won’t be interrupted for 10 minutes (the throne room in a pinch).
• Close your eyes and shut out the world.
• Pick a simple word (like “om" or “one" or “Hawaii") and slowly repeat it while deeply breathing in and out.
• When stray thoughts crop up (they will), refocus on your rhythmic breathing.
• Say “ahhhh" (fave bad doctor joke).
About to start a January diet?
We are all for snacks, especially those that keep you from sitting down to a meal hungry enough to gnaw the napkins. Munching a handful of walnuts half an hour before eating is one of the best ways we know to tame a Rottweiler appetite.
But wait. If you want to lose more weight in less time, intriguing new research says: Skip midmorning snacks. Dieters who do lose more than 11 percent of their weight in the same time that morning noshers lose only 7 percent. Why? The gap between breakfast and lunch often isn’t that long, you’re probably not really hungry, but someone brought in doughnuts and well, you know how this story ends.
In the afternoon, the reverse is true. If there’s more than a five-hour gap between lunch and dinner (routine in our lives), a snack may be essential to dropping a belt size. You’re for-real hungry, not just eating because someone had a Krispy Kreme flashback. More exciting, afternoon snackers eat more fruits and veggies (OK, our definition of exciting isn’t Kim Kardashian’s).
So be as smart about snacking as you are about talking your boss into an afternoon off. The same study that found morning snacks backfire also found that snacking when you’re legitimately hungry can help weight loss IF you eat healthy foods that fill you up with nutrients, not calories. On our top afternoon snacks list: a handful of nuts, no/low-fat yogurt, whole-grain crackers, fresh veggies, fruits and berries.
About those hypertension pills
Almost anyone who takes meds for high blood pressure – or has a spouse, parent or pal who does – likely will recognize this reaction: Do I really need to take this pill until Lady Gaga starts dressing like Hillary Clinton? In other words, for-freaking-ever?
What eventually gets to so many people taking hypertension drugs is this: You don’t feel younger. You don’t look younger. You just fork over the copay every month if you’ve lucked out with health insurance, or spring for the whole thing if not. Either way, there are moments when you’re beyond unconvinced that swallowing one more pill is worth it.
IT IS!! Note capital letters. And exclamation points! Still, we get that font theatrics or another set of medical reassurances may not cut it. So try this:
Smack in the middle of the holidays, some startling news arrived: Drugs that bring down your blood pressure don’t just put off heart trouble for a while. For every month you take them, they add a day (a healthy day) to your life. Take them for 20 or 30 years (hardly unusual) and you’re talking lots more days. Enough time to finish that book, celebrate your 75th anniversary (it’s diamonds, BTW) and get to really know your great-grandkids. We’re not even factoring in the time you’re adding by taking your vitamin D-3 and DHA omega-3s, chucking the Oreos and walking daily with a buddy.
Good times from those small objects called BP pills.
Prevent high blood sugar
This one’s better than not only scoring Saturday-night tickets for "The Book of Mormon" but getting them at half price.
Here’s the deal. Let’s suppose you’ve been working harder than a Broadway hoofer to keep your blood sugar down. Twelve years from now, not only will type 2 diabetes be a complete stranger in your life, but – woo hoo, here comes the twofer – so will colon cancer.
That’s the upshot of a striking new study that chased down a fuzzy link between diabetes and colorectal cancer. Women who started out the 12-year project with elevated blood sugar levels were twice (yep, twice) as likely to have colon cancer a dozen years later as women who started with healthy blood sugar.
What keeps blood sugar steady-as-you-go? Just doing the same things that you’re already doing (right?) to keep your whole body happy and your jeans the same size: Eating lots of fruits, veggies, whole grains and beans. Laying off sugary drinks and snacks (put down those Ring Dings). Kicking anything with saturated or trans fats to the curb. Getting plenty of sleep. And finding a stress-reduction technique, like meditation or yoga, that you love doing (we do both).
One more characteristic of people who avoid colon cancer: They’re more likely to be physically active. Ditto for people who avoid close encounters with type 2 diabetes.
It’s time for our daily walk. Grab your coat and join in!
Be nice to your knees
Whether you’re dashing up the stairs, saying your prayers or strutting your best Michael Jackson move, a sudden "Ouch!" from your knees can stop the action faster than a goalie. Ignore persistent ouches, and getting to know a knee surgeon may be next. Take this fast new knee health test. Unlike Madam Zuzu, it accurately predicts your future:
1. Have you ever had a knee injury?
2. Have X-rays spotted knee osteoarthritis?
3. Is your body mass index 25 or higher? (Not sure? Use the BMI calculator at www.RealAge.com.)
If you’re a female over 50, even one "yes" means do something now to prevent knee problems later. Three "yeses" and you’ll know that surgeon’s office hours by heart if you don’t get serious. What to do:
• Abandon the couch. Regular exercise strengthens your leg muscles, giving your knees vital support. Focus on low-impact activities that build stamina, strength and flexibility: walking, biking, swimming, weightlifting.
• Eat like a knee doc. These DHA-rich foods stifle joint-damaging inflammation: walnuts, avocado, flaxseeds, salmon and trout. To be sure you get enough, take 900 mg a day of DHA omega-3s.
• Don’t go back for seconds. Obesity almost guarantees osteoarthritis because it speeds cartilage breakdown. Every extra pound puts 3 pounds of pressure on your knees when you walk. Dropping even 10 pounds or so can cut your risk of osteoarthritis in half. Go for it! Bum knees are a bummer, and most knee surgeons aren’t that much fun.