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Common Sense, but Good Reminders Nonetheless
on March 24, 2012
Increasingly, we are seeing more books and articles about how to prevent our brains from experiencing the natural process of slowing/deterioration that accompanies the aging process. Just yesterday, for example, one of the cover stories on the AARP Bulletin (no, I don't subscribe; they just send it to me) was on how to prevent mental decline. While there is some validity to parts of this, it also fits the pattern we often fall prey to, of wanting answers for whatever ails us at the moment.
Amen's book is fairly straight-forward, but much of the content could have been reduced to fewer pages. In the first two chapters, for example, he repeatedly gives the reader 'teasers' of what they will learn by reading the book, rather than just getting to the point. I found this to be a bit tedious, as it had the feel of sitting through a time-share lecture.
Most of what Amen recommends falls into the category of common sense. For anyone who has read books on how to avoid heart disease, manage diabetes, or deal with any other health issue, the content here isn't that new. Rather, it's the usual drumbeat---much of which we need to be reminded of---to eat right, exercise, keep our minds challenged/engaged, reduce stress, and don't do stupid things as we go through life.
In contrast to what other authors have stated, however, Amen encourages caution with respect to some aspects of diet, opining, for example, that consumption of certain foods (peaches, kale, apples, berries ... ) can have negative effects on brain function. I'm not sure I buy that.
Amen is a huge proponent of supplements (fish oil, CoQ10, ginkgo, alpha-lipoic acid, etc.) something I agree with, but also remain ambivalent about. While I support the use of supplements--and take several each day--the research on their impact and effectiveness on the human body is inconsistent and sometimes vague. Still, it appears the bigger issue is whether they actually work, rather than if they will harm you, so what the heck. As someone with diabetes, the only (!!!) thing that has helped me control my numbers is 1) diet (high protein, low carb) and 2) exercise.
This book doesn't necessarily fall into the category of pop-medicine, but at times, it does come close. Amen, for example, minimizes the role of genetics on brain function and behavior. If my work with adopted children has taught me anything, it is that genetics plays a much bigger part in our lives that we appreciate. I can see where some readers might also mistakenly believe that the approaches Amen recommends will neutralize or reverse true neurological conditions, such as ADHD and Alzheimers.
For those who have a decent command of why it's important to eat right, exercise, and maintain balance in life, this book won't provide much information that's new or novel, though the brain imaging pictures and results are intriguing. The book is an easy read, however, and if you or someone you know could be prodded toward better health by reading it, then click the 'buy' button.