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Parents’ guide to the teenage brain, fighting hunger with protein, reduce your risk of Alzheimers

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What we’re about to say won’t surprise anyone who’s ever raised a kid: The teenage brain (not to mention a 9-year-old’s) isn’t equipped to handle what seems like life’s simplest decisions. Like: Should you jump off the roof into a swimming pool? Hitch a ride with someone who’s drunk? Email 10 people a picture of yourself wearing nada? Disrespect the teacher on the first day of school?

The thing is, it’s not the kid — it’s the kid’s brain. While it’s the same size as yours by age 9 or 10, the self-regulatory centers — the decision zones that govern judgment and impulsivity, and should scream: “Hello?! You could break both your legs jumping off a roof!” — are the last to reach maturity. That doesn’t happen until age 24 (later for men). Result? The adolescent brain has adult-size pleasure and sensation centers without adult-level control. Explains a lot, doesn’t it?

So how do you get your kids to 24 alive? Saying, “What were you thinking?” afterward doesn’t work. Instead, you need to get them to practice a bit of delayed gratification. As in: You’ll have more fun (be more popular, win more games, get along with the principal) if you don’t go for the immediate gain (being the center of attention for five seconds before breaking both legs). We figured this out in our last book, “YOU: The Owner’s Manual for Teens,” which we wrote because we see way too many kids who’ve been badly hurt because their brains didn’t say: “Wait up.”


If just the thought of starting another diet leaves you hungrier than a teenager at soccer camp, we’ve got two words for you: protein snacks. Adding not one but two high-protein snacks a day to a pounds-off program sets you up for three rewards:

1. More satisfaction and less hunger, so sticking with it is easier.

2. More weight loss — up to double what you get with the same calories of high-carb snacks.

3. A healthier muscle-to-fat ratio when you hit your goal, which increases coordination, too.

Holding onto muscle is a priority for anyone who’s trying to lose weight, especially if you’re old enough to have seen the Beatles or “I Love Lucy” the first time around. That’s because you naturally lose muscle as you accumulate birthdays. And since muscle cells burn more calories than fat, muscle helps keep that weight off. And (here’s where those snacks come in) your body needs protein to make muscle.

What belongs on your high-protein snack list? A cup of plain, fat-free, no sugar added Greek yogurt sprinkled with walnuts. A few slices of broiled or baked chicken breast. A glass of skim milk and a hard-boiled egg. Hummus smeared on red pepper strips. Peanut butter stuffed into celery.


What if we said that YOU control seven major factors for memory loss, Alzheimer’s disease and cognitive dysfunction? And that changing a few daily habits cuts your threat from these brain thieves in half. You’d pay attention, right?

Then listen up. Old age and dementia do not have to go hand-in-hand. Take as many of these seven steps as you need to (we’ll help), and enjoy keeping all your marbles.

1. Quit smoking. Our realistic plan will help you quit for good 30 days from now. Find it at

2. Get active. Start small. For instance, walk in place whenever you’re on the phone. Eventually, put a treadmill or stationary bike smack in front of the TV.

3. Get smarter. Go back to school: Brain work makes you sharper.

4. Brighten up. Fighting bouts of depression? See your doc about starting or changing your medication. And get extra-serious about step 2: Walking daily is a powerful depression fighter. (So are meditation and yoga. Get tips at www.clevelandclinicwellness.com.)

5, 6, 7. Stop three brain threats at once. We’re talking hypertension, obesity and diabetes. Eat more fruits, vegetables, fish and 100 percent whole grains. Cut saturated fat and calories. Exercise 30 minutes a day. Lose weight. Enjoy feeling terrific!

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