If there’s one thing we would swear on our diplomas — no research needed — it’s that we, you and everyone from China to Chicago have walked into a room and had no idea why they’re there. You curse having the memory of a mosquito (or just curse).
Well, get this. Two memory researchers have determined why it happens. It’s called (try to remember this) the doorway effect.
Example: You walk across the room to get a newspaper. No problem. But if you walk through a doorway to another room to get it, zap, your memory is Windex’ed. You arrive clueless.
Why? When you cross the room, your surroundings don’t change. When you go through a doorway, you enter a new space. Your brain auto-purges info you needed in the old room (go get the newspaper) so it can cope with the new room’s demands (watch out for the cat!). Way back, this was handy if you were leaving the safe cave for T-rex territory. It still is, if you’re leaving your desk for a meeting, or your cozy bedroom for a slippery bathroom to stop the twins’ water war. But going to get the paper? Not so much.
So, you ask, what’s the fix? We didn’t forget. There just isn’t one, short of never exiting a room without writing down why. Yeah, we’re not doing that either.
Here’s the upside: Every second trip gets you (us, too) closer to your 10,000-steps-a-day goal. Go get your pedometer. Maybe write it down first.
Here’s a surprise: Statins’ “fringe benefits” may be even more important than their original reason for being: preventing heart attacks and strokes. What’s made statins such superpowers?
First, they reduce lousy LDL cholesterol, which helps keep your arteries younger, more flexible and freer of plaque. That’s terrific for your heart, brain and every one of your roughly 10 trillion cells. Second, statins cool chronic inflammation, which effectively cools cancer activity and cardiovascular mayhem, not to mention reducing inflammatory diseases like arthritis. That’s not all. Statins also:
• Protect against prostate cancer, enlarged prostates and erectile dysfunction.
• Fend off dangerous blood clots in your legs and lungs.
• Slash your risk of cataracts.
• Protect against Alzheimer’s. Some statins — particularly Crestor and Lipitor (atorvastatin) — could cut your risk by 60 percent.
• Shrink and stabilize any plaque pile-ups already in your arteries.
• Help protect type 2 diabetics against the extra-high threat of heart disease.
And there’s more. Turns out that the top benefit of taking statins for years isn’t protecting you against heart disease and stroke, though that doesn’t waver. Long-term use also greatly reduces your chances of dying from infectious diseases, surprising even statin researchers.
Brand-new data also shows that if you get a seriously nasty flu infection (flu kills thousands every year), statins are life savers. People hospitalized for influenza who don’t take statins are almost twice as likely to die from flu as those who do.
Tiny pill, huge payoffs.
Kick the habit one of us did
As our (awesome) regular readers likely know, one of us, ahem, recently had a mega Diet Coke habit. Two six-packs a day was nothing. The other one (with his wife, Lisa) finally braved an intervention and got Dr. Mike down to a can a day. Last September, he went to zilch. And lived! Now all he misses is the extra strength-training from shifting 20-pound cases of cola.
We mention this because chugging soda already looked bad when Dr. Mike laid off. Both regular and diet drinks had been tied to obesity and high blood pressure — colas to bone loss and full-sugar sodas to type 2 diabetes, lousy teeth and more.
Now it turns out there’s something in regular soda that’s particularly bad for women.
If you’re a female, just two cans a day makes you more likely to add inches to your waist, get into blood sugar trouble, have soaring triglycerides and develop heart disease, stroke and type 2 diabetes — even if you don’t gain a pound. Throw in kidney damage, too.
This isn’t the first evidence of these links, but it’s the first to spot how vulnerable women are. Why? That’s as clear as muddy waters. Maybe because you burn fewer calories than guys. Or replace more healthy foods with useless fizzy stuff. Or always eat sweets with soda. Or something no one’s figured out yet.
Our New Year’s wish? Pull a Dr. Mike: Switch to water (or caffeinated water), seltzer with fruit, hot/iced tea or (his fave) coffee. It’s giving tea real competition as the world’s No. 1 health drink.
Asthma drugs: Do the right thing
It sounds simple, but like so many things that sound simple — ordering salad instead of fries, loading letterhead into your printer — it isn’t. “It” is taking your asthma drugs correctly.
You don’t have asthma? If you know 12 people, you can bet the ranch that one of them does. Asthma is more common than aspirin on New Year’s Day; the number of hacking, wheezing people increases every year. And winter is prime asthma time, because colds and flu can trigger wicked attacks.
Wicked enough to kill. Severe asthma attacks — the horror-movie sensation of an invisible force stealing your breath — hospitalize half a million Americans every year. Thousands die, often needlessly. Hard new evidence just confirmed something all docs know: Many frightening or fatal attacks result from people not taking their meds at all, or the right way, or not using enough — even midcrisis.
So back to the simple: If you have asthma (or someone you love does) and have gotten casual about taking your meds, time to clean up your act. First step: Check in with your doc and review your control plan.
• Have your symptoms or triggers changed? (Is your best friend’s cat suddenly giving you coughing fits?)
• Do you have new challenges, like a building exit clogged with secondhand smoke?
• Does your medication need adjusting?
• Are you sure you know how to handle a breathing emergency? Using less than 75 percent of your “rescue” dose won’t do it, and many don’t use enough.
We want you to breathe freely in 2012.
Winning the kid vs. veggie wars
Desperate to get your child to eat anything that isn’t beige or white? We’ve just come across an almost foolproof way to get broccoli off the plate and down the hatch. It’s so effective that kids happily eat 80 percent more of the formerly dreaded green stuff.
“How?” you ask, and “Will it work for my significant other?” Yep.
Many kids won’t touch broccoli or other strong-flavored veggies (cauliflower, spinach, kale) because little taste buds (often male ones, too) are hypersensitive to their bitter undertones. They recoil like a slingshot.
While most people (not all) outgrow this reaction, if that’s the problem — not a war of the wills to determine who’s boss — try dunking the rejected veggie in low-fat, no-added-sugars ranch dressing. Boom. Broccoli vanishes. It’s more effective than, oh, covering ants in chocolate.
We are thrilled with almost anything that gets kids to eat more veggies. But we’re not fans of bottled creamy dressings, which are usually loaded with sugar and saturated fats. Instead, whip up a homemade dip from nonfat yogurt seasoned to kids’ or a certain adult’s taste with some or lots of the following (you know your targets): chives, parsley, salt, pepper, mustard, walnuts, raisins, a splash of orange or lemon juice, grated orange rind, and — if you really need it to sell it — a bit of honey.
Big plus: Kids who get in the habit of eating fresh vegetables (fruits and nuts, too) do better in school. They’re also more likely to stay slim. Same goes for you and you-know-who.