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Health tips to avoid 'brain drain'

September 7, 2012 12:00:00 AM PDT
From what you eat to strokes you don't even know are happening, there are things that could be hurting your memory and more. Experts show us how to beat brain drain.

Did you know that everything from what you eat to habits you may have can affect your memory? Don't despair even if you find yourself forgetful, there are lots of ways to beat "brain drain," and things you can do to keep your mind sharp.

It's a simple but memorable creature helping University of Texas Science Center neuroscientist Jack Byrne study how memory works: The sea slug learns to associate food with touch, so after being hand-fed when anything hits its lips, it will begin to bite in response.

The idea is to find out what genes and proteins are involved in the memory and learning processes.

"We can apply that knowledge to help individuals that have learning disabilities," said Byrne.

As the doctor tries to help our brains, you could be hurting yours. A UCLA study found sugar could decrease brain activity. Mice given sugar had a harder time getting through a maze than mice given sugar and omega-3s.

Omega-3s are found in things like walnuts, salmon and soybeans. Adding omega-3s to your diet could protect you from sugar's bad side effects.

Gum could be bad or good for your gray matter. A recent study out of Cardiff University says chewing hurt people's short-term memory when they tried to recall lists of words and numbers.

But other studies say it helps your brain, including one that showed people who chewed gum outperformed non-chewers in memory exercises.

University of Texas neurologist Paul Schulz says small silent strokes that go un-noticed can affect memory and attention span. He treated one woman who had hundreds of them.

"The majority of people I see who have attention changes related to strokes have no idea they've ever had a stroke," said Schulz.

A Harvard report says you could lower your risk of silent strokes by controlling blood pressure, diabetes and cholesterol, keeping a healthy weight, not smoking, and managing atrial fibrillation, helping your brain from becoming sluggish.

Low-carbohydrate diets could also be draining your brain. In 2008, a small study found women who eliminated carbs from their diets had a decline in cognitive skills, especially on memory tests. Instead of wiping out carbs to lose weight, eat healthy carbs found in foods like fruits, grains and nuts.


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