Monday, September 24, 2012

Use Your Brain to Change Your Age


I don't review a whole lot of nonfiction on this blog, mainly because I don't read that much nonfiction, but also because writing reviews of nonfiction usually isn't as much fun.  I did want to take a moment to mention this one, which I downloaded as an audio book from my library's website, because it was interesting, and while most of the information as far as healthy living goes wasn't new to me, what was new is how living a healthy lifestyle relates to the health of the brain.

I guess I'd been under the impression that there wasn't a whole lot I could actively do to prevent senility, particularly Alzheimer's disease - I thought that was really genetics and the luck of the draw.  But I am now aware that there is a whole lot I can do - and best of all, most of it I'm already doing.  Yay!  I had read about learning new skills - languages, instruments, etc., later on in life - but that's just the tip of the iceberg.  Basically, anything that you do that increases blood flow - oxygen - to your brain is a huge help.  Aerobic exercise, getting more sleep (that was one that I hadn't been too good about, but now that I'm making a more concerted effort, I've noticed that I do think more clearly, and that I have even more sustained energy throughout the day when I make sure to get a lot of sleep), and eating a diet that is conducive to making your body more efficient at delivering brain-healthy nutrients where they are needed - these are all important things.

It was interesting to think about the fact that when we deprive our body of necessary nutrients that make the brain work less efficiently, our decision-making skills will suffer.  And that as people gain more weight, their brains actually shrink in size - and this impairs the brain's ability to work well and make good choices.  It's a downward spiral, and it's a bit scary.  As with all books about health, I take what is said with a grain of salt - there are so many conflicting studies out there, so I always try to approach books like this with common sense and moderation.  Speaking of grains of salt, I was surprised to hear that salt and high blood pressure are still a firm and obvious connection in the author's mind, despite many recent studies that appear to be disproving that link.  Still, what Amen says makes a lot of sense, and I have to say it feels good to know that while there are many factors I cannot control about how my body will age, I can certainly take ownership of the ones I can.

I liked many things about this book - and the audio reader did a great job.  What I most decidedly did not like was the blatant advertising for additional services (for a fee, of course) through the author's web site.  That bugged me.  Still, his goal of disseminating important health information is a good one, and he makes his case with clear language and plenty of interesting examples.

Use Your Brain to Change Your Age: Secrets to Make You Look, Feel and Think Younger Every Day by Daniel G. Amen; read by Marc Cashman (Books on Tape, 2012)

Also reviewed at:
Bibliophile by the Sea: "I found a lot of what the author says about diet and exercise to have been things that I've read previously in other articles from various health publications I read, but I did find many of the case studies pretty fascinating."

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