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Carved in Sand: When Attention Fails and Memory Fades in Midlife
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Carved in Sand: When Attention Fails and Memory Fades in Midlife


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ISBN: 0060598700
Release Date: April, 2008
Publisher: Harper Perennial
Description: Why can't you remember where you put your keys? Or the title of the movie you saw last week? Or the name of your favorite restaurant? Acclaimed journalist Cathryn Jakobson Ramin takes readers on a lively journey to explain what happens to memory and attention in middle age. Along the way, she turns up fresh scientific findings, explores the dark regions of the human brain, and hears the intimate confessions of high-functioning midlife adults who—like you—want to understand exactly what's going on upstairs.Anyone older than forty knows that forgetfulness can be unnerving, frustrating, and sometimes terrifying. With compassion and humor, Jakobson Ramin sets out to discover what midlife forgetfulness is all about—from the perspectives of physiology, psychology, and sociology. Relentless in her search for answers to questions about her own unreliable memory, she explores the factors that determine how well—or poorly—one's brain will age. She consults experts in the fields of sleep, stress, traumatic brain injury, hormones, genetics, and dementia, as well as specialists in nutrition, cognitive psychology, and the burgeoning field of drug-based cognitive enhancement. The landscape of the midlife brain is not what you might think, and to understand its strengths and weaknesses turns out to be the best way to cope.Jakobson Ramin's reporting of the stories of a wide array of midlife men and women will resonate with readers. Her audience will glean spectacular insight into how to elicit the very best performance from a middle-aged brain. A groundbreaking work that represents the best of narrative nonfiction, this is a timely, highly readable, and much-needed book for anyone whose memory is not what it used to be.
Book Details
Format: Paperback
ISBN: 0060598700
ISBN-13: 9780060598709
Publisher: Harper Perennial
Release Date:
Length: 336 Pages
Weight: 0.65 lbs.
Dimensions: 1.0 x 5.2 x 7.9 in.
Language: English
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Customer Reviews

5 out of 5 stars5 out of 5 stars5 out of 5 stars5 out of 5 stars5 out of 5 starsDon't forget to read this book!
Posted by Sahra Badou on 12/29/2007
Sometimes I don't remember where I put my keys, not realizing I am holding them in my hands. I am sure this happened (or will happen) to all of us. This book will help you understand why this happens. This book explores the dark regions of the human brain, and will make you understand exactly what's going on in the brain from the perspectives of physiology, psychology, and sociology. This book is a must for everyone over 40 years old, who know just how unnerving, frustrating, and terrifying forgetfulness is. Do you wonder sometimes why you keep repeating yourself, saying the same thing over and over again in a conversation with someone? The author does a great job exploring the factors that determine how well--or poorly--one's brain will age.

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.
5 out of 5 stars5 out of 5 stars5 out of 5 stars5 out of 5 stars5 out of 5 starsA sparkling journey through the landscape of memory
Posted by David Duncan on 4/15/2007
Cathryn Jakobson Ramin has written a wonderful bit of storytelling about something we all will face one day -- the loss of memory. Weaving in her own story of mild, but highly annoying memory loss and her search to remember, she provides a snapshot of where science is right now with it's knowledge of the physiology of memory. She describes the drugs that enhance cognitive-function, and gives common-sense descriptions and advice about how to eat, sleep and meditate to improve our minds and memory. Her voice is strong and witty and fun -- and authoritative. Her research has been exhaustive. Although the book professes to be about fading memory in midlife, it is really about that hugely mysterious realm of the mind and what we remember. Read this book!
5 out of 5 stars5 out of 5 stars5 out of 5 stars5 out of 5 stars5 out of 5 starsGot a mind worth minding? Read this!
Posted by Jason Roberts on 4/30/2007
This book isn't just a timely discussion of an important topic, it's impressively well-written. Ramin wears her (impressive) learning lightly, threading her own experience, and that of others, into a beautifully-rendered counterpoint to the cutting-edge science she's surveying. I was reminded of books like A NATURAL HISTORY OF THE SENSES or THE OMNIVORE'S DILEMNA--it's that kind of solid but compulsively readable book.

Even if you're not in personal panic-mode about your own memory, this is a fascinating survey of how new theories and technologies are informing our very notions of awareness and the mind. Prepare to be not only informed, but fascinated.
5 out of 5 stars5 out of 5 stars5 out of 5 stars5 out of 5 stars5 out of 5 starsHighly recommended
Posted by J. Doyle on 9/6/2007
The big question for all of us in the middle age bracket is this: When we draw a blank when searching for a word or a person's name--is this normal forgetfulness or are we suffering from something much scarier? In this well-researched book, Cathryn Jakobson Ramin does an excellent job of presenting possible reasons for memory lapses and ways to deal with them.

In addition to having her brain and body tested for what might be the cause of her own memory lapses, the author interviewed many people and performed extensive research on the topic. She found that how you treat your brain in middle age will make a difference later. Midlife is the time to act: to make good decisions on diet, stress management, sleeping habits, and exercise.

She writes that today's world is an especially difficult time to reach middle age as we are "smack in the middle of a technological revolution." We can be overwhelmed by the amount of information available and the endless stream of interruptions, multitasking, and over stimulation.

In very readable prose, she explains how our minds are affected by the foods we consume, our hormones, the drugs we take, the chemicals in the environment, our sleep patterns, blood pressure and blood sugar levels, and the amount of exercise that we get. Since we need to build up our cognitive reserve to keep mentally active, she gives tips on how to perform these "intellectual push-ups."

In spite of the seriousness of the subject, this book is a pleasure to read and even funny at times.
5 out of 5 stars5 out of 5 stars5 out of 5 stars5 out of 5 stars5 out of 5 starsJust when you thought you were losing your memory...
Posted by J. Thomas II on 7/5/2007
...along comes this book that lets you know that you are not alone. This is a scary subject for many of us who have "senior moments" and may be having them more frequently. Cathryn Jakobson Ramin explores what may (or may not) be going on inside our skulls and, along the way, shows what's being done to stop and sometimes reverse the process. The fact that she approaches the subject with humor helps to ease the seriousness (and fear) of the situation.

Ms Ramin explores the cutting-edge in brain research and guides the reader to understand complex issues.

This is a MUST READ for anyone 50 and older!