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Paperback Aging with Grace : What the Nun Study Teaches Us about Leading Longer, Healthier, and More Meaningful Lives Book

ISBN: 0553380923

ISBN13: 9780553380927

Aging with Grace : What the Nun Study Teaches Us about Leading Longer, Healthier, and More Meaningful Lives

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Book Overview

In 1986 Dr. David Snowdon, one of the world's leading experts on Alzheimer's disease, embarked on a revolutionary scientific study that would forever change the way we view aging--and ultimately living. Dubbed the "Nun Study" because it involves a unique population of 678 Catholic sisters, this remarkable long-term research project has made headlines worldwide with its provocative discoveries. Yet Aging with Grace is more than a groundbreaking health...

Customer Reviews

5 ratings

Soberly informative, compassionate, personal, and spiritual

The story of the nun study will hit home to scores of millions of Americans, for most of us have aging parents or grandparents, or we have reached advanced years ourselves. Snowdon tells the story of his research into Alzheimer's and related illnesses with both clarity and compassion. He tells their story both personal and biological. In these pages, many of us will read our own futures. In "Aging with Grace," Snowdon walks the lay-reader through the steps and stages that made his now-famous "nun study" possible. You may have caught bits of this study in Time Magazine, The Donohue Show, or many other popular media. This is the story behind the story. It is the story of the nuns themselves. Snowdon uses the nun's own words to describe where they came from, what they aspired to as young initiates, and where they are going as they move on into their advanced years. The book isn't all drama. Snowdon provides useful background on Alzheimer's disease, its symptoms, diagnosis, and treatment. He goes on to draw both firm and tentative conclusions. In short, he sprinkles in advice based on sound, careful, peer-reviewed, scientific research. You'll learn what parents can do for their children, what children can do for their aging parents, and what various factors may contribute to or exacerbate senile dementia. Lastly, this book stands in sharp contrast to the fraud so frequently perpetuated on a desperate and uninformed public by various "alternative" medical practices. Snowdon's work provides an excellent example of how medical research is done. I've been very comfortable sharing this book with friends who desperately need reliable information in a forthright yet compassionate form, and they have assured me that my recommendation really helped fill a need and made them feel less helpless. I found this book soberly informative, compassionate, personal, and spiritual - a rare combination in any reliable medical book. I encourage all medical researches to hold this book up as their model for successfully communicating with a non-medical audience. ~Robert

A "nun-angle" on the nun study

I have read over the customer reviews, and agree with those who find this account of the "Nun Study" inspirational, uplifting and wonderful to read. Although the information about Alzheimer's is the reason the study got so much publicity, I think there's another reason for why the book is so powerful: reading about these elderly nuns is a visit to a way of life and an era of women's religion which is now slipping away. With the deaths of these participants and women like them, it will be gone forever. This group is almost the last generation of nuns for whom becoming and remaining a nun was a popular option for idealistic young women. There are no younger cohorts of nuns to take the places of these marvelous elderly ladies; perhaps one reason so many of the latter kept very active up through their 80s and even 90s is because there were few replacements for them in religious orders. To celebrate their lives before they die seems to be an underlying theme of the book, quite apart from the medical information about aging.

A Warm, Interesting Report on Longevity and Quality of Life!

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. Ther

A Different Take on Alzheimer's

I have a family member with Alzheimer's and recently read two popular science books on Alzheimer's disease. I just finished "Aging with Grace" and enjoyed it's compelling humanitarian edge - -the stories about the nuns and their interactions with Snowdon are just delightful--one can really envision these people. On the other hand, there is not a lot of information on the causes of Alzheimer's in the book--there's a little on free radicals and some of the Alzheimer genes. For that type information I would recommend an excellent book titled "Decoding Darkness" by Tanzi and Parson -- it provided a very clear presentation of what we know about the causes of Alzheimer's especially the genes involved.


Well, if we must grow old, and each of us will, we might as well do it with "grace." This book brings to our attention some valid facts based on scientific research which will, indeed, cause us to contemplate the ageing process. The title of this book caught my eye and brought recollections of my days as a street counsellor. I will forever remember a nun by the name of Sister Gabriella from Spain who had more spunk, energy and zest for life than anyone I have ever known. At 93 years of age, she was a source of inspiration not only to the people of the street, but to anyone who crossed her path. She did not know the meaning of fear, from the days of her youth she remembered more about martial arts than Bruce Lee, she did not look a day over 60, and the only sickness she had ever known was the common cold and a case of chicken pox at the age of six. She proclaimed she did not have time to "get sick;" there was always too much work to be done. If you asked her a question, she had the extraordinary ability to make you look inside yourself for the answer. This book is living proof that there is great mysterious wonder and truth to the ageing process and the monastic life that nuns, like Sister Gabriella, live. She attributed her long life to sunshine, nature, spiritual healing, living with a kind heart, and almost as an afterthought, she added diet and exercise in moderation. Sister Gabriella passed away many years ago in a mission outside of San Francisco in her 104th year.This intriguing book brings many of those same factors to light and reveals that growing old, can also mean a time of renewed energy and vitality, expanded intellectual knowledge, spiritual growth, active participation, and emotional and physical well being. The book is extremely well researched and well written. Regardless of age, there is a lot to be learned here that we can all put to good use in a quest for a long, happy, healthy and fulfilling life.
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