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Exercise Makes Your Brain Larger

Regular exercise makes your brain larger, according to a study from the University of Illinois (Journal fo Gerontology, November 2006). With aging, your brain becomes smaller. This study showed that 60 to 79-year-old men who exercised regularly actually had their brains grow larger. Study participants who did only a stretching and toning program had their brains shrink.

If you feel you are losing your ability to reason or think clearly, or if you suffer mood disorders such as depression, ask your doctor to do blood tests for homocysteine, folic acid, pyridoxine and vitamin B12. If these tests are normal, you should get tests for thyroid function, cholesterol and other causes of arterial damage.

You can suffer from B12 deficiency even if your blood levels are normal. When you body lacks B12, your red blood cells do not mature properly and are much larger than normal, and homocysteine accumulates in your bloodstream, damaging your arteries and brain cells. Having low levels of B12 can damage every nerve in your body including your brain, to make you forgetful and impair your ability to reason and solve problems. If you are low on B12, taking folic acid supplements or eating food heavily fortified with folic acid may cost you IQ points. A study from Tufts University showed that people who have low blood levels of B12 can suffer nerve damage, and those who also had high blood levels of folic acid had far more nerve damage than those with normal levels (American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, January 2007).

Your doctor should also check for diabetes, which can damage blood vessels that supply the brain, heart and other organs. Diabetics may suffer loss of memory long before they are diagnosed as having diabetes. While we await further studies, protect your memory with a lifestyle that will help you avoid diabetes, heart attacks and strokes. Control your weight, eat a wide variety of plants, limit refined carbohydrates and get plenty of exercise.

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Dear Dr. Mirkin: What are interesterified oils?

We have known for many years that trans fats increase risk for heart attacks and some cancers. Laws requiring trans fats or partially hydrogenated oils to be listed on nutrition labels went into effect last year, so food manufacturers are finally eliminating them from their products. One substitute that is appearing in some foods is a new type of fat made with a process called interesterification or fatty acid randomization. Interesterified oils have saturated fatty acids, usually from plants, inserted into other vegetable oils. A study from Brandeis University shows that both interesterified fats and partially hydrogenated oils raise the bad LDL and lower the good HDL cholesterol much more than the plant saturated fats found in palm, palm kernel and coconut oils. (Nutrition & Metabolism, January 2007).

For more than 60 years, scientists have blamed saturated fats found primarily in meat, chicken and whole milk diary products for the high incidence of heart attacks in the United States and other countries that eat the so-called "Western diet". This study supports others that show that saturated fats in plants may be safer than saturated fats in animal tissue. However, scientists generally agree that the safest fats are those that are liquid at room temperature: oils that contain primarily polyunsaturated or monouunsaturated fats. Substituting polyunsaturated fats for saturated fats lowers LDL cholesterol, and the monounsaturated fats produce a more stable LDL cholesterol that helps to prevent heart attacks. More

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Dear Dr. Mirkin: Why do I sweat so much more after I finish exercising than during my workout?

Your body temperature varies throughout the day, going from about 97 degrees in the early morning to about 99 degrees in the early evening. Exercise raises body temperature considerably. Athletic competition can drive your temperatures as high as 105 degrees without harming you.

To keep your body temperature from rising too high, your heart pumps large amounts of heat in the blood from your hot muscles to your skin, causing you to sweat. The sweat evaporates and cools your body. The amount of sweat that your body produces depends on the temperature of the blood that flows through your brain. When the temperature of your blood rises, you sweat more. During exercise, your heart beats rapidly to pump blood to bring oxygen to your muscles and to pump the hot blood from the muscles to the skin where the heat can be dissipated. When you stop exercising, your heart slows down also, pumping less blood to the skin. The heat accumulates in your muscles, causing blood temperature to rise higher, so the amount of sweat increases right after you finish exercising.

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Recipe of the Week

Lemony Lentil-Spinach Soup

You'll find lots of recipes and helpful tips in The Good Food Book - it's FREE

June 26th, 2013
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About the Author: Gabe Mirkin, MD

Sports medicine doctor, fitness guru and long-time radio host Gabe Mirkin, M.D., brings you news and tips for your healthful lifestyle. A practicing physician for more than 50 years and a radio talk show host for 25 years, Dr. Mirkin is a graduate of Harvard University and Baylor University College of Medicine. He is board-certified in four specialties: Sports Medicine, Allergy and Immunology, Pediatrics and Pediatric Immunology. The Dr. Mirkin Show, his call-in show on fitness and health, was syndicated in more than 120 cities. Read More
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