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Carved in Sand: When Attention Fails and Memory Fades in Midlife Hardcover – April 3, 2007
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From Publishers Weekly
Memory loss and other cognitive problems are increasingly the bugaboo of aging baby boomers, as well as many of their elders. In her first book, veteran journalist Ramin turns herself into a guinea pig as she seeks ways to restore her own failing memory and growing inability to concentrate. Looking at a wide variety of genetic, biochemical and environmental factors that slow the connections among the brain's 100 billion neurons, especially in the hippocampus, Ramin undertakes 10 interventions, methods of achieving her cognitive enhancement. She logs the ups and downs of medications such as Adderall and Provigil; she looks at dietary supplements and biofeedback. She ends with discussions with experts, such as Nobelist Eric Kandel, about what keeps some people mentally young into old age; the key seems to be having the "mental reserves" gained from challenging one's mind with new kinds of learning—such as learning a new language or studying art—that use different parts of the brain; the right diet and exercise also help. Overall, the variety of perspectives and the wealth of scientific information Ramin provides, as well as her warm personal style, will reward readers and may well help them stay mentally sharp. (Apr. 1)
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.
Sometime after her fortieth birthday, journalist Ramin, who counts on her wits and recall, began forgetting the names of people and common objects. She was also having difficulty focusing for longer than it took to look up a synonym for the word whatchamacallit. She was so distressed that her first reaction was to conceal her handicap. She discovered, however, that many friends and associates, all about her age, were suffering the same symptoms and also trying to keep them secret. For the good of others in the same boat, she decided to throw herself on the sword, admit her incapacity, and offer herself as guinea pig as well as reporter to research midlife cognitive breakdown and the interventions available to ameliorate it. Her meaty memoir and science report reveals that there are nearly as many reasons for midlife memory loss (forgetfulness doesn't always presage Alzheimer's) as there are people who suffer from it, and that there are several tests to determine specific causes in addition to numerous resources to correct the root problem. Donna Chavez
Copyright © American Library Association. All rights reserved
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This book's copyright is way back into 2007, and I wish she'd do a more up-to-date revisit to this topic. Because of the older copyright, you should be suspect in how accurate those older research results are. Heck, I wish SOMEONE would re-visit this topic with more current research that either disputes or validates the older data. The older copyright tempted me to give this 3 stars.
One conclusion notable for all--make sure you ASK your physicians about the effect on memory of ANY medications they prescribe. If they don't know, check out the internet for more recent research (if available) on the side effects of the drug. Don't take it for granted if a doc says s/he doesn't know or if you're told it's minimal. Once a brain is bruised or worse, has a bleed, there's no going back to a well functioning brain.
One other note, there are ~tons~ of books on "How to sharpen your mind" and "How to remember everything." This is not one of those books. This book will not tell you exactly what you need to do to bring by brain back to the place it was when you were 25. That's just not possible. However, this book reassure you and give you a toolbox to work with what you have. That was really refreshing for me.
I truly believe that she saved me that night and I can actually feel good about being old-er. :-)
Did President Clinton lie when he said he forgot many of the events during his sex scandal trial? According to the author, Clinton is only human, and like all of us past out mid-life, are prone to forgetfulness. Saying `I forgot' or `I can't remember' does not mean the person is lying. We sometimes forget where we put something we are holding in our hand!
The chapter on Alzheimer was very fascinating. According to the author, even if Alzheimer is a genetic disease, genes are written in pencil, and we have the eraser. There are cases where one of twin siblings gets Alzheimer, while the other does not. In the US, 4.5 million people have Alzheimer. President Reagan had Alzheimer. According to the author, it has cost the US 91 billion so far to treat people with Alzheimer.
So what can one do to protect himself against Alzheimer? According to the author, you must exercise your brain, just like you exercise your abs. A friend of mine, who is a major manager at one of the biggest banks in the world, told me that she found her memory improving since she started playing Sudoku! She can calculate better and more complex problems in her mind, and can remember people and appointments without having to refer to her rolodex or secretary. Most of us go to the gym to exercise our muscles and for endurance training, but how many of us do training that focuses on our brain? Maybe soon in the future there will be gyms targeted at brain exercises. In fact, the author says such a gym already exists: The world is the real brain gym. Research has shown that social people, as opposed to private people who live a secluded life, are less prone to Alzheimer. Being social; going out and meeting people actually do the brain good. Absence of human interaction is dangerous to the brain. And this does not mean electronic interaction, such as web chatting. Facial expression helps in human communication and in memory retention. Through electronic socializing, facial expression is absent.
Furthermore, staying indoors and inhaling co2 (plenty of it in homes) destroys brain cells. Try to stay outdoors as much as possible. Our homes should be a place we retire to in order to eat and sleep. And try to keep the windows open as much as possible.
Interestingly, research has shown that testosterone helps against Alzheimer. Furthermore, sportsmen are more at risk of getting Alzheimer (knocking their head, head injuries etc.). Mohammad Ali, the famous boxer, has Alzheimer; just count the times he was knocked on his head!
There are many programs available to improve one's memory. Puzzles and riddles offer great exercises to our brain, and many can be found in books and board games. Some internet websites also offer great puzzles and games for brain training. I once read a book about improving one's memory that stressed on the technique of visualizing images with colors, or objects with images. I once used this technique, and for years was able to memorize a list of items! Not because our brain is in the inside, and unseen by the eye, we should neglect it. Like our muscles and abs, our brain too needs its own share of training!
According to the author, women have generally better memory than men. I found this to be fascinating. According to her, thousands (or maybe millions?) of years ago, while men were out hunting, women picked between poisonous fruits, and thus had to have a very sharp memory. Many fruits look the same, and eating the wrong one could lead to death. Women therefore evolved with a better memory.
Just like we eat healthy foods to maintain a healthy body (mostly for outside appearance, like flat abs), we must also eat foods that are good for our brain. Glucose is the fuel of our brain, and not getting enough spells trouble. Vitamin supplements might be good, but too much is not good. The author recommends we get our vitamins from natural foods, such as fruits. Next time you crave sugar, don't go to your chocolate drawer; rather, eat fruits or honey. Honey and dates are excellent sources of sugar. Be aware that diabetes has been linked to memory loss.
Fish oil, though great for the body and mind, might have mercury. Mercury is poisonous; it does not belong in the human body. In some tuna cans, the mercury level was double the FDA limit. Mercury destroys brain cells! Mercury has also been found in fish oil supplements.
Contrary to popular opinion, depression does not cause memory loss. But lack of sleep does. In our fast moving society, we are getting less sleep, which directly leads to memory loss. A rested body is a healthy brain.
The author dedicates a whole chapter on exploring drugs aimed at improving memory. I found that chapter fascinating. There are many serious side effects to many of the drugs, but some of them accomplish wonders. You must be really well informed and do your own research before taking such drugs. Remember, doctors are not gods! They sometimes make mistakes, and they don't necessary know everything.
In small amounts, alcohol can protect you against Alzheimer and heart disease. In large quantities it produces memory loss. It seems that the harmful effects of alcohol consumption outweigh its benefits.
Want to know what really affects your memory? Hard Drugs, such as cocaine, destroy brain cells. Air pollution, pesticides, and home sprays also affect our memory. Many medicinal drugs also have an effect on our memory. Chemotherapy makes the brain 25 years older. But what tops my list, and you definitely did not guess it: Sexual orgasms! According to the author, some powerful orgasms constrict veins in the brain and cause memory loss forever that is just before the orgasm and right after. The unlucky ones can experience six months of memory loss. This condition affects 25 in 100,000 people. One should aim for a moderate orgasm. To be moderate in everything is good.
Do you want to know whether you will have Alzheimer by genetic testing? Genetic testing makes it now possible to know whether you will end up with Alzheimer 9 to 15 years in advance. What if your genetic testing proves positive? Do you want to live the next 15 years dreading the fact that you will have Alzheimer?
This is really a fascinating book and I am glad I read it. It will make you start looking from the inside out in your health program.