Health and Fitness Information for Mature Adults 

September 17, 2009

Table of Contents:

  • Smart Books (Introduction to special issue)
  • Let's Be Cell Smart (Understanding the building blocks of life)
  • Let's Be Brain Smart (Improving brain development as we age)

Smart Books

In the age-old quest to be healthy, wealthy and wise, it helps to take advantage of exceptional sources of fact and information along the way. The American Senior Fitness Association (SFA) has identified two such resources, which we are pleased to describe for you in today's special book-review issue of Experience!

Let's Be Cell Smart

Many graduates of the SFA Brain Fitness for Older Adults educational program have said that they enjoyed studying the functioning of the brain at the cellular level. For similarly scientific-minded readers, a book scheduled for publication on October 19, 2009, is certain to capture and hold your attention. In his new 240-page book, How We Live and Why We Die: The Secret Lives of Cells, the author Lewis Wolpert guides readers on a tour of the human cell and explains the crucial role that cells play in every aspect of our lives, from birth to death.

Experience! recently received an advance review copy of How We Live and Why We Die from the publisher W.W. Norton & Company of New York. The writing style is so clear and readable that this book can definitely be recommended to interested laypersons, as well as to professionals.

The publisher's accurate description of the book's underlying theme says it best: "Imagine your body as a society of billions of individual creatures. Each of these tiny creatures has its own agenda, but millions of years of evolution have adapted them to work for the greater good of the entire society. This society is governed by a network of nerves that influence the collective through a system of weighted voting so complicated that it is impossible to replicate. Finally, imagine that this society is constantly under siege, fighting enemies from without and rogue elements from within. Looking at humanity through the lens of the cell -- the microscopic building block of all life -- is a mind-altering experience..."

Throughout his manuscript, which includes discussions ranging from the history of cell theory to contemporary controversies (such as the debate over stem cell research), Wolpert keeps the tone informative and brisk. Moreover, he succeeds at presenting scientific material in an original and witty manner, as indicated by a poignant quote he chose as a prelude to the text. Provided below, it comes from John Masefield, the English author who lived from 1878 to 1967:

   "What am I, Life? A thing of watery salt

   Held in cohesion by unresting cells,

   Which work they know not why, which never halt,

   Myself unwitting where their Master dwells."

Following is a detailed listing of the contents of How We Live and Why We Die: The Secret Lives of Cells:

  • Acknowledgments
  • Introduction -- the miraculous cell
  • Discovery -- how science made plain the facts of life
  • How We Live -- how cells replicate, maintain order, evolve and die
  • How We Function -- how proteins determine the work of cells
  • How Genes Work -- how DNA encodes proteins
  • How Our Cells Are Replaced -- how stem cells self-replicate
  • How We Become Human -- how we develop from a single cell
  • How We Reproduce -- how meiosis works
  • How We Move, Think and Feel -- how nerve cells communicate
  • How We Grow and Why We Age -- how cells multiply, enlarge and decline
  • How We Survive -- how cells defend against bacteria and viruses
  • How Cancer Strikes -- how rogue cells form tumours
  • How Diseases Are Caused -- when cells behave abnormally
  • The Origins of Life -- the mystery of the first cell
  • Glossary
  • References
  • Index
  • The author Lewis Wolpert is Professor Emeritus of Biology as Applied to Medicine at University College London. His previous books include Six Impossible Things Before Breakfast and Malignant Sadness, the basis for a BBC television series.

    Let's Be Brain Smart

    Another publication of W.W. Norton & Company, The Healthy Aging Brain: Sustaining Attachment, Attaining Wisdom, is only slightly older than How We Live and Why We Die -- and is no less compelling. Like Lewis Wolpert, author Louis Cozolino has also written a book well-suited for both lay and professional readers. At 396 pages, The Healthy Aging Brain is packed with pertinent research findings, fascinating anecdotes, and useful insights on how to maximize the functioning of the human brain.

    Cozolino's approach to the subject is special in that he stresses the role of relationships in building, shaping, and sustaining the brain. In particular, he values the grandchild-grandparent relationship, which facilitates brain stimulation across generations, establishes the importance of elders in the community, boosts elders' self-image, and produces a positive effect on their cognitive health.

    The Healthy Aging Brain also delves into the topic of wisdom, which is defined as the embodiment of knowledge and compassion in the context of relationships. Cozolino explains how our brains become better equipped to reflect wisdom as they age due to long-term neural activation. He calls for a renewal of the respect once given to elders for this quality, which is personified by such skills as their storytelling ability.

    Following is a detailed listing of the contents:

  • Acknowledgments
  • Preface
  • Introduction

  • The Brain As a Social Organ
  • Creating Attachment
  • Sustaining the Social Brain: A New Look

  • Current Theories of the Aging Brain
  • Growth and Adaptation
  • Hemispheres and Hormones

  • The Emergence of Wisdom
  • The Maturation of Emotion
  • Challenges to Wisdom
  • Stories as Nurturance

  • Nurturing Your Body
  • Nurturing Your Relationships
  • Grandparenting
  • Optimal Challenge and Maximum Inclusion

  • 52 Ways to Avoid Hardening of the Categories: A Program of Personal Experiments
  • Suggested Readings

  • Credits
  • References
  • Index
  • The author Louis Cozolino, Ph.D., is a professor of psychology at Pepperdine University, as well as a veteran private practitioner.

    Experience! readers: Thank you for your interest and questions. Due to the high volume of contacts SFA receives, we cannot respond to individual queries or comments. However, the newsletter does address frequently asked questions and topics of vital interest to our members.

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