Aging With Grace: What The Nun Study Teaches Us About Leading Longer, Healthier, And More Meaningful Lives

Aging With Grace: What The Nun Study Teaches Us About Leading Longer, Healthier, And More Meaningful Lives

by David N. Snowdon
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Aging With Grace: What The Nun Study Teaches Us About Leading Longer, Healthier, And More Meaningful Lives by David N. Snowdon

In 1986 epidemiologist Dr. David Snowdon embarked on a revolutionary scientific study that would forever change the way we view aging and old age. Dubbed the "Nun Study" because it involves a unique population of 678 Catholic sisters, this remarkable long-term research project remains today at the forefront of some of the world's most significant research on aging.

This remarkable book by one of the world's leading experts on Alzheimer's disease combines fascinating high-tech research on the brain with the heartfelt story of the aging nuns who are teaching scientists how we grow old — and how we can do so with grace. The Nun Study's findings are already helping scientists unlock the secrets to living a longer, healthier life.

Yet Aging With Grace is more than a groundbreaking health and hard-science book. It is the story of an altar boy who grew up to be a scientist studying the effects of aging on nuns. It is the poignant and inspiring stories of the nuns themselves. Ranging in age from 75 to 104, these remarkable women have allowed Dr. Snowdon access to their medical and personal records — and they have agreed to donate their brains upon death.

In Aging With Grace, we accompany Dr. Snowdon on his loving visits to nuns like Sister Clarissa, who at the age of 90 drives around the convent in a motorized cart she calls her "Chevy" and knows as much about baseball as any die-hard fan a third her age.

Then there is 104-year-old Sister Matthia, who until her death in 1998 knitted two pairs of mittens a day and prayed every evening for each of the four thousand students she taught over the years. These bright,articulate, and altruistic women have much to teach us about how faith, wisdom, and spirituality can influence the length and quality of our lives.

We also follow Dr. Snowdon into the lab as he and his colleagues race to decode one of the most devastating diseases known to humanity. We discover:

* Why high linguistic ability in early life seems to protect against Alzheimer's
* Which ordinary foods in the diet defend the brain against aging
* Why preventing strokes and depression is key to avoiding dementia
* Why it's never too late to start an exercise program
* What role heredity plays, and how lifestyle can increase our chances for a mentally vital old age
* How intangibles like community and faith help us age with grace

Both cutting-edge science and a personal prescription for hope, Aging With Grace shows how old age doesn't have to mean an inevitable slide into illness and disability; rather, it can be a time of promise and productivity, intellectual and spiritual vigor, and continuing freedom from disease.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9780553801637
Publisher: Bantam Books
Publication date: 05/08/2001
Pages: 256
Product dimensions: 6.46(w) x 9.56(h) x 0.94(d)

About the Author

Dr. David Snowdon received his Ph.D. in epidemiology from the University of Minnesota and began the Nun Study there in 1986. In 1990 he moved the Nun Study to the Sanders-Brown Center on Aging at the University of Kentucky Medical Center, where he is also Professor of Neurology. One of the world's leading experts on Alzheimer's disease, he has presented his findings at scientific conferences throughout North America and Europe and has been published in such major medical journals as The Journal of the American Medical Association and The Journal of Gerontology.

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Aging with Grace: What the Nun Study Teaches Us about Leading Longer, Healthier, and More Meaningful Lives 4.1 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 11 reviews.
SCL0013 More than 1 year ago
"Aging with Grace" is an absolutely exquisite and elegant story of the world renowned, longitudinal Nun Study on Alzheimer's Disease, brilliantly designed and carried out by the creative and compassionate epidemiologist, Dr. David Snowdon. Throughout the book there is a beautiful message of hope, optimism, courage and altruism as well as recommendations for optimizing health and wellness, and primary and secondary prevention efforts. This book is a must read for everyone: lay individuals, all health care professionals, as well as a book to be read and discussed by families. As a nurse practitioner for the past 25 years, I found the reinforcing messages of blood pressure and cholesterol control, smoking cessation, stroke, heart attack and obesity prevention, diet and exercise recommendations, as well as the importance of relatedness with others and a positive outlook, to be particularly relevant in promoting optimal health and wellness for all members of our society. I am privileged to have been a student in one of Dr. Snowdon's classes at the University of Minnesota many years ago - his compassion, sensitivity, and kindness are far reaching.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I was a student at the SSND Motherhouse in Canada (Waterdown) and lived with the Canadian nuns there for one year. Mr. Snowdon captures the lives of the SSND sisters extremely well - even though his study was of the American sisters. There were many similarities to the Canadian sisters. A trip down "memory lane" for me! Thank you Mr. Snowdon for your work! Congratulations on a well written book.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Showdon has written a very readable layman's summary of his research into Alzheimers. While much remains a mystery, researchers are beginning to get a better picture of what causes this disease. Fascinating reading!
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Guest More than 1 year ago
I purchased this book when my husband and I started to suspect my father in law had Alzheimers. It is highly informative - an excellent book for those who would like a greater understanding of Alzheimers and/or aging. The book delt with a scientific topic without seeming like a textbook: the personal stories and the author's obvious affection for the nuns made "Aging with Grace" read more like a biography than a book reporting the results of a scientific study. "Aging With Grace" does not go into detail on treatment options, medications, resources for patients who DO have Alzheimers (that's not the purpose of this book). However, it does provide insight on how to incorporate a wellness plan into your life to reduce your chances of becoming afflicted with Alzheimer's. I would recommend this book to anyone interested in Alzheimer's, aging, or wellness. I think it would also make a good choice for a book club that is interested in reading non-fiction.
Guest More than 1 year ago
Most books about science operate mostly from the head. This book also has a heart, and gives you a close human connection with the people being examined. 678 elderly nuns from the order, School Sisters of Notre Dame, are being studied to understand what factors helps explain their long life, and ability to remain mentally and physically active at advanced ages. The results of this work will undoubtedly focus future scientific research into the most productive areas for extending and improving the quality of human life. Professor Snowdon is an epidmiologist who has had great success with studying religious communities. Because of the similar environments and habits involved, these communities can more clearly demonstrate the factors that favor or disfavor disease. He has also done work with Seventh Day Adventists and diet, for example. The School Sisters of Notre Dame is a teaching order, and its members are highly educated. For example, of the elderly nuns studied 85 percent held bachelor's degrees and 45 percent master's degrees. This is in sharp contrast with the rarity of these degrees in the general population among women of similar ages. Obviously, they have also led a life of strenuous service to God and to teaching others. The study benefits from many other unique qualities. Each nun also wrote an autobiography when she was young, and just joining the order. As a result, it is possible to go back and study those writings. The sisters have also generously agreed to donate their brains for research when they die. This means that the physical brains can be compared to the results of cognitive and physical tests to see what the causes of mental and physical dysfunctions might be. Early in the study, Professor Snowdon also gained another advantage. He was encouraged to develop a relationship with the sisters, rather than just to study them. The book's many examples reflect his personal connection and observation of their aging experiences. Although the study is continuing, it has already yielded some remarkable insights. In the area of Alzheimer's disease, the research has shown that higher education and better vocabulary and reading comprehension skills when young help prevent or delay the disease. In brains equally ridden with distortions of the disease, functionality of the person varies a lot due to those factors. You are advised to read to your children as a way to help them avoid Alzheimer's disease when they are older. Brains of those with Alzheimer's disease show plaques and tangles. The study suggests that the tangles are important, and the plaques less so. Keeping blood pressure under control to avoid stroke also helps to stave off Alzheimer's disease. Interestingly, more education and greater mental capacity when young are also predictive of longevity. The book also looks at the genetic impacts on Alzheimer's and seems to suggest that these can be overcome to some extent by education and mental development. There are also diet suggestions, like getting plenty of folic acid (found particularly in cooked tomatoes). The stories of the individual nuns will stay with you for a long time. These are very admirable people, and I learned a lot from reading about their lives. If you are like me, you will be saddened to think about the sister who had Alzheimer's who feared that she would forget God. You will also be saddened by the sister who was incorrectly diagnosed as having Alzheimer's and lived four very unpleasant years with this misapprehension. There's good news here if you do live a long time. 'The older you get the healthier you've been.' So after around 85, many sources of health risk don't seem to get any worse. The stories of active minds and bodies over 100 will inspire you. After you finish reading this book, I suggest that you locate some elderly people (ideally over 90) and get them to tell you about their lives. In that connection, you will also receive much inspiration