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Health & Balance

22 Live-Long Tricks

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Play some head games.

Keeping your mind stimulated boosts memory and brainpower and slashes your risk of developing dementia nearly in half, according to a study conducted at the University of New South Wales in Australia. Look for fun ways to challenge your brain: Try to memorize the phone numbers programmed into your mobile phone and make calls without using speed dial; brush your teeth or try using chopsticks with your nondominant hand; mentally tally the total cost of your groceries as you put each item in the shopping cart; or start a monthly trivia game night with friends.

Turn the tube off during dinner.

You already know that watching television at mealtime can lead to mindless eating and subsequent weight gain. Now, a study in the Journal of the American Dietetic Association suggests that families glued to the TV at dinnertime eat fewer fruits and veggies during the meal. To protect your family's health— and their waistlines — move the TV out of the kitchen and put it near the treadmill instead.

Cook with herbs and spices.

Flavoring recipes with fresh herbs and spices rather than cooking with the old standbys — salt, butter, and sugar — can cut sodium, fat, and calories and improve a food's overall health benefits, says Suzanna Zick, N.D., a naturopathic physician at the University of Michigan. "Many herbs such as thyme and oregano are similar to green, leafy vegetables in that they're high in vitamins and minerals," says Zick. Seasonings such as saffron and basil are believed to contain cancer fighters, and "warming" or spicy herbs such as nutmeg and black pepper may also help lower blood pressure.

Treat yourself to dark chocolate.

For years, experts have touted chocolate's ability to help fight cancer and protect your heart. The latest good news: Enjoying about 30 calories of dark chocolate a day (one or two dark chocolate Hershey's Kisses) can help lower your blood pressure enough to reduce your risk of dying from heart disease by 5 percent and of stroke by 8 percent, according to a study in the Journal of the American Medical Association.

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