94 of 96 people found the following review helpful
Exciting book, readable, full of information,
This review is from: Brain Longevity: The Breakthrough Medical Program that Improves Your Mind and Memory (Paperback)
While most of us are losing our minds (literally cell by cell), some people are razor sharp well into their nineties. Is this just heredity or good luck, or is there something we can do to keep our mind and memory from going the way of Alzheimer's? Dr. Khalsa thinks so. In fact he presents quite a program for rejuvenation. The question is, does he have the goods in this book to help YOU?
To be honest, I don't know, but I read the entire 454 pages with interest and mostly approval. Not being a brain scientist myself, nor a doctor of medicine, I can only offer a layman's reaction. Generally speaking, Khalsa sees the brain as another organ in the body that can benefit in the same way that the rest of the body can benefit. He offers the exciting prospect (along with some evidence) that even old people can grow new dendrites, in effect increasing their brain power. Especially interesting to me were his memory tests (that you can take yourself) to determine whether it is likely you are on your way to Alzheimer's or dementia, or just having a bad day.
There are four elements of his "brain longevity program": exercise, nutritional therapy, stress management, and pharmacology.
Exercise increases blood flow to the brain that in turn increases nourishment to the brain and allows for better removal of waste products. Khalsa believes that exercise also increases the supply of the "nerve growth factor" (NGF) hormone to the brain while enhancing neuronal metabolism. (p. 324) He reports that brain cells may die because they do not receive enough NGF. Certainly if one follows a sedentary lifestyle it would not be surprising to learn that with reduced blood flow, the brain becomes undernourished. So exercise--YES!
Okay, what about "nutritional therapy"? Yes, that's the usual program of cut out the animal fats, eat less in general and eat lots of fresh fruits and vegetables. Good for the body, good for the brain. He also recommends nutritional supplements like ginkgo biloba and ginseng. He is concerned about free radicals in the blood which he believes contribute to the ageing process, and shows us how to reduce their number. Obviously, being overweight is a health risk, but Khalsa believes that being overweight also impairs cerebral circulation and creates millions of free radicals which can damage cells everywhere in the body including in the brain.
What really hit me was the importance of "stress management." Khalsa believes that excessive and chronic production of cortisol (which the adrenal glands secret in reaction to danger and other stresses) is "so toxic to the brain that it kills and injures brain cells by the billions." (p. 8)
And then there's pharmacology. Khalsa likes to go natural first, but when the situation is acute, he is not opposed to prescribing medicine. He especially likes deprenyl which he calls "the memory drug." He has a lot to say about neurotransmitters and their function and how they break down. He sees a connection between depression and subpar brain function, and believes that curing depression can rejuvenate the brain by itself. He recommends DHEA for some of his patients who have low levels of that precursor hormone in their systems. Indeed, he notes that hormonal deficiencies can figure prominently in memory and cognitive loss.
What sets this book apart from others I have read on the subject of health and well-being is the completely holistic approach taken by Dr. Khalsa. He is both a medical doctor trained in Western medicine and an alternative physician trained in the ancient ways of the East. He acknowledges the lack of experimental proof for some Eastern practices and medicines, but still believes they can be effective even if we are not sure how they work. After all, what has worked for millions of people for thousands of years must have something going for it.
The book is divided into three parts. First there is the story of his discovery of the brain longevity program. Then there is Part Two on "How the Brain Works," followed by Part Three, "Designing Your Own Brain Longevity Program." I can tell you that, skeptic that I am, I am nonetheless already at work on following Khalsa's guidance, and I am altering my lifestyle to incorporate parts of his program. One thing is clear to me: his program can't hurt, and there is a fine chance that it will do a lot of good.
But you judge for yourself. Even if you don't follow any of the program you will benefit from reading this excellent book because it includes so much information about health. Additionally, there is a lot of sound psychology and even some spiritual insight that Khalsa provides. Here are a couple of nuggets, the first is what one might expect, and the second an example of Khalsa's wide-ranging knowledge base:
"One quick word about the so-called Recommended Daily Allowances: NONSENSE! I believe they're just too low. These daily allowances, until recently, were called Minimum Daily Requirements." (p. 243)
"Visual sensory memory, called iconic memory, is employed by circus knife-throwers as they try to convince their audiences that they're actually throwing knives. In fact...the knives they 'throw'--which barely miss the person strapped to the target--are actually punched through the target from behind. However, when the audience watches a knife 'leave' the thrower's hand, they swivel their heads toward the target...In reality, all they see is the iconic afterimage of the knife." (p. 138)
I didn't know that, and there's a lot else I didn't know about how our brains work and don't work until I read this book. By the way, a good part of the credit for how well this book is written goes to professional health writer Cameron Stauth who worked with Khalsa.
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Initial post: Sep 7, 2014 6:46:45 AM PDT
Phil Calandra says:
excellent review-gives you the motivation to read this book
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