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updated 8/17/2012 8:48:48 AM ET 2012-08-17T12:48:48

Can't remember what you ate for breakfast? Blame your gut. Middle-aged people with metabolic syndrome -- a cluster of risk factors like obesity and high blood pressure that increase your chances of heart disease and diabetes--have about 15 percent less blood flowing to their brain than those who don't have the syndrome, according to a new study presented at the Alzheimer's Association International Conference.

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In one of several tests, participants heard a list of 15 words and were asked to repeat them back. After five trials, researchers found that people with metabolic syndrome couldn't remember as many words the first few times after initially hearing them. Once the researchers analyzed images of the participants' brains, they linked the recall problems and lower blood flow to metabolic syndrome.

More research on people with metabolic syndrome is needed to determine exactly why their brains have lower blood flow, says study author Barbara Bendlin, Ph.D., a researcher at the Wisconsin Alzheimer's Disease Research Center. Your best bet? Slim down. Here are three tips that can help. (And for more tips to keep your mind in tip-top shape, learn 27 Ways to Power Up Your Brain.)

Like What You Eat
If you really do prefer white rice to brown, or white potatoes to sweet, then don't shy away from eating them. Alan Aragon, M.S., our Men's Health nutrition expert, says as long as 80 to 90 percent of what you consume is comprised of whole or minimally refined foods, you shouldn't change your taste preferences. His rationale? You're more likely to adopt a routine you'll enjoy and sustain, therefore leading to consistency and long-term success. (Safeguard your grey and white matter against disease with these 5 New Brain Foods.)

Switch Hands
Being a lefty isn't necessarily right. Researchers at the University of Southern California say eating with your non-dominant hand will make you pay more attention to what you're consuming--and therefore more likely to eat less. "Anything you can do to mix up your physical sequence of eating will help," says lead author David Neal, Ph.D., Director at Empirica Research, a social and consumer research firm.

Hit the Gym
A healthier diet won't matter if you don't put in the extra legwork. Aragon says exercise is just as key as eating right and recommends a minimum of three 30- to 60-minute workout sessions each week. Your goal: a balanced mix of aerobics and weight training to work off calories and boost your metabolism. Need a great place to get started? Try The 82-Day Speed Shred, the new metabolic training DVD series from Men's Health that will melt fat, torch calories, and sculpt every single muscle in your body.

Additional research by Markham Heid and Andrew Daniels

More links from Men's Health:
Eat More Food, Lose More Weight
4 Sneaky Portion-Control Tricks
The Truth About Calories

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