Health & Fitness

Move your mouth to move words into your long-term memory

In Mel Brook’s 1976 movie “Young Frankenstein,” Fredrick Frankenstein (Gene Wilder), grandson of the original Dr. F., recaptures his erratically behaving Monster (Peter Boyle). He then tries to show the nervous townsfolk just how bright and good-natured his creature is by preforming a dancing and singing duet of “Putting on the Ritz.” And, after some rehearsal (we assume), the monster remembers and performs every word.

The scene is hilarious, but there’s solid science there: The monster’s borrowed brain was demonstrating a technique that can give you a monster memory, too. Speaking – or singing and dancing -- out loud improves long-term memory.

In a new study, researchers from Canada’s University of Waterloo had groups of students focus on dozens of words either by hearing a recording of their own voice saying the words, by hearing someone else say them, by reading the words silently or by reading them aloud. Then, the students were shown words and asked if they had just studied them or not. Those who read the words aloud were far more able to remember correctly, around 77 percent of the time.

Seems combining reading and vocalization activates two parts of the brain and involves physical motion – a sure-fire way to strengthen memory muscles. So the next time you want to remember a phone number or a document at work, find a spot where you can read it aloud. And if anyone asks, you’re not talking to yourself, you’re doing brain exercises.

Ban on triclosan

For a long time, triclosan was thought to be a pretty good bet because it helped knock out unwanted bacteria in consumer and hospital products. It’s been used in everything from cleaning supplies to toothpaste – in fact, any product that says “antimicrobial” or “antibacterial” on the label may contain triclosan or its cousin triclocarbon.

Unfortunately, triclosan’s antiseptic properties are toxic to the liver, thyroid and lungs. It’s also a hormone disruptor and promotes antibiotic resistance. So the Food and Drug Administration has banned it for use in over-the-counter health care antiseptic products, labeling it “not generally regarded as safe”. Previously it was banned from use in soaps, but even with this new ban, it’s still in use until December 2018.

For a complete list of consumer products (215) that contain triclosan, go to the Environmental Working Group’s website (EWG.org) and look for Skin Deep Cosmetics Database.

Mom’s pregnancy diet

In the 2008 movie “Baby Mama,” Kate (Tina Fey), a working woman in her 30s, finds that she can’t have a baby and hires Angie (Amy Poehler) as a surrogate. Angie, who’s a junk-food junkie, is reprimanded by Kate: “I don’t want my kid born addicted to high-fructose corn syrup!” “Really?” Angie replies, amazed that what she eats actually could cause that.

Well, Kate was right. Being concerned about her future child’s corn syrup addiction is legitimate. We know that moms-to-be are aware of the importance of staying healthy for themselves and the health of the fetus, but it’s easy to overlook how powerful an influence your food and supplement choices have on the future health of your child. In a new analysis of over 40 studies on kids’ food preferences, researchers determined that flavors from a pregnant woman’s diet actually reach the fetus and shape food preferences.

Says lead author Stephanie Anzman-Frasca, Ph.D., “These early exposures familiarize the baby with specific flavors as well as the experience of variety and set the stage for later acceptance of healthy flavors in solid foods.”

So if you’re enjoying broccoli, dark greens like kale and good-for-you salmon while you’re pregnant, your fetus will experience those flavors and learn to love them. Then when you start feeding your child solid foods, the battle over “eat your vegetables” will be won before it begins.

Avoiding varicose veins

Veins carry blood back to the heart after oxygen is delivered to your cells. They accomplish their mission by using valves that open and close, keeping blood headed in the right direction. But if those valves weaken, blood can back up and pool, causing swollen, twisted veins. If you notice them on your calves or thighs, there are ways to ease the pain and stop them from getting worse:

▪  Exercise regularly to strengthen vessel walls and move blood through your veins.

▪  Don’t sit for long periods of time; elevate legs when resting.

▪  Maintaining a healthy weight relieves pressure on veins.

▪  Avoid tight clothes around the groin and thighs.

▪  Wear compression stockings (the right compression pressure) and put them on correctly, if prescribed.

▪  Talk to your doc about routine aspirin use.

Mehmet Oz, M.D. is host of “The Dr. Oz Show,” and Mike Roizen, M.D. is Chief Wellness Officer and Chair of Wellness Institute at Cleveland Clinic.

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