Boosting brain power! How to stay sharp!

FRESNO, Calif.

Little memory lapses can be frustrating and they can get much worse as we age. For some, they can turn into big problems like dementia or Alzheimer's, but there are simple things you can do right now to reduce your risk!

Tension, excitement and enthusiasm. It's the 2012 USA Memory Championship. Memory athletes rack their brains trying to memorize pages of names and faces. Defending champ Nelson Dellis breaks his own U.S. record by memorizing 303 digits in five minutes! Nelson admits he's no natural

"I have a pretty poor memory," Nelson Dellis, a memory athlete, told Action News.

But this cognitive competitor, who climbs mountains to raise money for Alzheimer's research in honor of his late grandmother, has trained his brain to win.

"I feel like these tools I've developed will be very, very helpful," Nelson said.

The 27-year old believes it'll be beneficial when his memory starts to go. New research shows at just 45 years old our brain power, things like memory, comprehensive skills and reasoning, can start declining! Neurologist Paul Schulz isn't surprised by the findings.

"Starting at around the age of 20, people's memory and attention span peaks," Paul Schulz, M.D., an associate professor and director of the memory disorders and dementia clinic, and vice chair of neurology at UTHealth, explained.

He says by age 80, normal people have lost 40 percent of their memory, but there are things you can do to fight cognitive problems. First, focus on focusing! Play word games or Sudoku and learn a new language. Also, read books and magazines and discuss them with others.

"It turns out that even focusing on a complicated TV show or a movie then talking about it, is a way of improving your attention span as well," Dr. Schulz said.

But don't overdo it. reports every hour of TV people between 40 and 59 watches, increases their risk of dementia by 1.3 percent. Dr. Schulz says doing things to prevent heart attack and stroke like lowering blood pressure and controlling cholesterol can also significantly reduce your risk of dementia and Alzheimer's.

"Makes a huge difference in terms of your risk of having worse cognition as you get older," Dr. Schulz said.

Don't forget to feed your brain! A recent study finds college students who ate two ounces of walnuts daily improved reasoning skills. Carrots, celery and green peppers are rich in luteolin, which can help protect you from dementia, and new research shows blueberries and strawberries have antioxidants that can keep your memory sharp.

Meanwhile, studies are mixed on the brain boosting abilities of the omega-three fatty acid DHA. It's found in fish like salmon and in algae. Nelson swears by the supplement.

"I take those religiously and I definitely feel a lot sharper when I'm eating better and taking these types of supplements," Nelson said.

Nelson took DHA before the competition. He also ate salmon and blueberries. A few things that may have helped him win his second memory championship in two years.

"It feels really good," Nelson said.

Nelson also did some push-ups before the memory championship. Doctor Schulz says physical exercise helps boost brain power across the board. He tells us all it takes is 20 to 30 minutes of aerobic exercise four times a week. Meanwhile, Nelson's planning to climb Mount Everest for a second time in 2013 to raise awareness and money for Alzheimer's.

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Gloria Galvan
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