Memory — how to maintain it, whether we're losing it — is a big concern as we age. These three books tackle the subject in very different ways. Lisa Genova explores the everyday memory loss that can be concerning, but maybe shouldn't be. The other two books dive into Alzheimer's and other reasons behind dementia, one explaining the science and politics, the other full of personal stories of people who've struggled with the disease, and things we can do to preserve our brain health and ability to remember.
Remember: The Science of Memory and the Art of Forgetting
By Lisa Genova
Worried that you cannot remember where your glasses are again? Fear not because this new best seller by neuroscientist and acclaimed novelist Genova — author of the 2007 novel Still Alice, about a woman with early-onset Alzheimer's — has comforting words about what memory is, why we forget and how to tell the difference between normal forgetting and issues of concern. (Forgetting where you put your glasses is normal. Forgetting that you wear them is not.) It's also power-packed with tips and tricks. To hone your memory: Get enough sleep. Work on lowering your stress levels. Remember that emotions can impact what you remember. Use mental imaging to help your recall, keep up the exercise and eat healthy (a Mediterranean diet is best). Knowledge is memory power, and being less afraid of what you don't remember and appreciating what you do is key.
The Problem of Alzheimer's: How Science, Culture, and Politics Turned a Rare Disease Into a Crisis and What We Can Do About It
By Jason Karlawish
Can we eradicate Alzheimer's? And why has this disease now become such a crisis? Experts estimate that 5.8 million Americans had the Alzheimer's in 2020, at a cost of approximately $226 billion. And caregivers are not getting the help — financial and otherwise — that they need. Karlawish, who works at the Penn Memory Center in Philadelphia, fascinatingly tracks the history of Alzheimer's, arguing that because our health system ignored it for so long, dismissing it as cognitive impairment instead of a brain disease, research faltered. While there are some hopeful new drugs, there is still no cure — but there are ways to reduce the impact of the disease: Monitor blood pressure and cholesterol. Rethink how you can support family members with Alzheimer's and look into progressive care communities. And most important, Karlawish suggests, vote for candidates who recognize the disease as a growing problem as our society ages, and are most likely to fight for research and treatment funding.
The Memory Thief and the Secrets Behind How We Remember: A Medical Mystery
By Lauren Aguirre
While all of us worry about Alzheimer's, what if you lost your memory overnight? That happened in 2018 to 25-year-old Owen Rivers, and while he has mostly recovered, he still has issues. How can such a thing happen? The answer is a link between opioid misuse and memory. So what to do? Aguirre suggests being careful about opioids, which may be appropriate after a surgical procedure or to control pain from cancer, but long-term high-dose use can lead to addiction and may damage your brain's memory center. Mounting evidence also suggests that exercise improves our memory, as do mental workouts (like counting backward from 100 by threes to 1). And don't forget to socialize because loneliness can put you at risk. Full of colorfully written case histories, this book is not only useful, it's also a lively read. (June 1)