Motherhood may make women smarter and help prevent Alzheimer’s by bathing the brain in protective hormones. Tests on rats show that the ones who raise two or more litters of pups do better in tests of memory and skills than rats who have no babies. Their brains also show changes that suggest they may be protected against Alzheimer’s.

“Our research shows that the hormones of pregnancy are protecting the brain, including estrogen, which we know has many neuroprotective effects,” says researcher Craig Kinsley. “When people think about pregnancy, they think about what happens to infants and the mother from the neck down. They do not realize that hormones are washing on the brain.?

After the rats went through the tests, they were killed and researchers looked at their brains, especially the hippocampus, which is associated with learning and memory. The rats that had several pregnancies had lower levels of a protein called amyloid precursor protein. In humans, this is associated with the development of Alzheimer’s.

Kinsley says, “Nature seems to provide the mother with a boost to enable her to care, long term, for the most important and costly genetic and metabolic investment she will ever make?her offspring.”

Want to live longer??Marry a smart woman. Men with smart, well-educated wives are less likely to have heart attacks. Norwegian researchers think smart women may have a calming effect on their husbands, as well as a positive influence on their diets and lifestyles. They looked at the health of 20,000 married men aged 35 to 56 from 1977 to 1992 and found that men with smart wives were less likely to be overweight and more likely to exercise. They also had lower blood pressure and cholesterol and smoked less. Dr. Haakon Meyer says, “This may be because the women make decisions about nutrition and lifestyle.”

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