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March 23, 2021
Harvard-trained neuroscientist Lisa Genova is the acclaimed author of Still Alice, a fictional story about a 50-year old woman diagnosed with early onset Alzheimer’s. In Remember, Genova continues the conversation about memory, this time in nonfiction format. She describes the different types of memories we form and how we can keep our brains in tip-top shape. She also talks more specifically about memory loss—about what’s normal and what’s not.
While I did find learning about different types of memories interesting, and while I did feel reassured that those “tip of the tongue” mind-blank moments are totally normal at any age, my favorite chapters were at the end, where all of Genova’s research came together. Basically, if I want to improve my memory, I need to pay attention to details I want to remember, decrease distractions, rehearse facts, self-test (quiz myself on what I know), attach meaning to moments, use visual and spatial memory, use lists, and keep a diary. I loved the idea to replicate context during memory retrieval, too. So if I study for a botany test while drinking a Mocha Frappuccino, I’ll try to drink the same thing while I’m taking the test so that I can recall information better.
I especially appreciated all the advice for keeping my brain (and therefore my memory) healthy (while decreasing my risk of getting Alzheimer’s at the same time). Some of my fave tips:
- Eat a Mediterranean diet (lots of leafy greens and veggies, berries, nuts, olive oil, whole grains, beans, and fish). This diet will cut my Alzheimer’s risk by half.
- Exercise. A brisk walk every day lowers my risk of Alzheimer’s by 40%.
- Sleep! Seven to nine hours, no exception.
- Decrease chronic stress, which causes increased inflammation and blood pressure.
- Get enough vitamin D.
- Take care of my heart. Eighty percent of people with Alzheimer’s also have cardiovascular disease.
- Don’t drink. No, red wine has not been proven to be good for your brain or your heart.
- Learn new things. I know we’ve all heard that “brain puzzles” keep you from losing memory, but that’s actually not true. What does help your brain is trying new socially and mentally stimulating activities—for example, learning piano, reading about a new subject, traveling, or making new friends.
- Meditate. If I meditate for 30 minutes a day for 8 weeks, I can actually physically grow the part of my brain responsible for memory.
A fascinating book, overall. I found it comforting and instructive.
Thank you Net Galley and Harmony for the ARC.