Q: I’m 38, a wife and a working mom with three kids. My days are jammed. I’m worried about taxes; my boss wants me to take on more responsibility at work; the cellphone is always ringing. Sometimes I can’t remember what I am supposed to be doing! It’s scary to think I might have Alzheimer’s disease already!
— Glenda H., Tallahassee, Fla.
A: Breathe — deep and slow. Exhale. Now, let’s talk. Forgetfulness is a predictable result of a frantic daily schedule and a lack of down time.
It sounds like your brain fog is coming from two sources: The first source is the nagging stress of super-juggling — trying to fit all of your everyday responsibilities into an overcrowded schedule.
You’re dealing with kids, work, the house, yourself (don’t forget you!), your spouse, friends and family. Whew!
Your second source is information overload — what Alvin Toffler called “infobesity” in his 1970 book “Future Shock.” And life’s gotten a lot more infoobese since then! Today, it’s well recognized that just like overeating damages your health, overconsuming information causes nagging, chronic stress.
And all that stress can decrease neural connections in your brain. In fact, studies have shown that multitasking makes each task take longer and causes more errors.
The brain fog is real; fortunately, so is your ability to stop the problem. So as Clint Eastwood’s
Dirty Harry (sort of ) says, “You’ve got to know your limitations.”
Here are our suggestions to help you reorganize your schedule, which might help you feel mentally sharper and keep your brain young.
Write out a short weekly list of to-do priorities. Additional tasks need to get done? Ask for help from your spouse, friends, and family.
Reduce info input. Turn off the TV; answer your phone only when you want, not whenever it rings; check your personal email once a day (at the office you’ll have to stay up on it). You can control info flow.
Put “you time” back into your schedule. Get at least 30 minutes of physical activity a day and meditate 10 minutes daily. Yes, physical activity and meditation take time, but they minimize the aging that chronic stress causes.
When you get your overcrowded schedule under control, you’ll become younger and your brain even more vibrant.
Q: I read an article that said a new study found having an annual physical doesn’t improve my chances of staying healthy or beating a life-threatening disease. That doesn’t make any sense to me. Should I keep getting an annual checkup or not? — Frank S., Brooklyn, N.Y.
A: Prevention and early diagnosis of problems are the keys to a longer, healthier life. If you get a regular checkup, you’ll know when you need to reduce your lousy LDL cholesterol to cut your risk of cardiovascular problems.
If you need to, your doctor can encourage you to shed 10 percent of your body weight (by exercising more and making smarter food choices), so you’ll reduce your chance of developing type 2 diabetes and lower your blood pressure.
And that’s not all having a yearly checkup can do for you: Annual testing reveals when a rise in PSA levels (guys) signals the need for a biopsy, so you can have early treatment — and cure prostate cancer.
We know recommendations now say PSA testing gives false positives (possibly triggering unnecessary
procedures), but we say that just means you need to make careful decisions about how to proceed when you see a rise in your PSA level.
A skin check every year can ID skin cancer — and early treatment of melanoma is essential for a good outcome. Even though PAP smears (gals) to check for cervical cancer are no longer done yearly, except for women who have previously had a negative result, an annual gynecologic exam that checks the breasts and pelvis, and looks for STDs is important. And there’s the benefit of having a long-term
track record with your primary-care physician — continuity builds better, more individualized care and healthier outcomes.