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Cognitive Super-Agers, a True Love Story, and Other June Reads

By | June 30th, 2021

How do brain-healthy centenarians do it? How can books help us cope with losing our memories? In case you missed them (amidst all of this month’s Aduhelm news), our editors and contributors round up their most recommended reads from the month of June in Being Patient Reads of the Month.

The New York Times: The Secrets of ‘Cognitive Super-Agers,’ June 21

Research into super-agers — people who remain cognitively sharp in their 80s and beyond — shows that cognitive decline isn’t always inevitable, and their lives offer unique insights into what we can do to fend off Alzheimer’s. The New York Times columnist Jane E. Brody writes about centenarians in a recent study who maintained their cognitive abilities such as planning, verbal skills and processing speed over time with the exception of a slight decline in memory. While scientists are still figuring out exactly why that’s the case, education and social engagement, hearing and visual abilities seem to be among various factors that may help super-agers thwart Alzheimer’s. “By studying centenarians, researchers hope to identify reliable characteristics and develop treatments that would result in healthy cognitive aging for most of us,” Brody wrote. “Meanwhile, there is much we can do now to keep our brains in tiptop condition, even if reaching 100 is neither a goal nor a possibility.” –Nicholas Chan

Peter Marshall, 56, has early-onset Alzheimer’s disease — a form of dementia that generally afflicts people in their 30s to 60s and makes up about 10 percent of Alzheimer’s cases overall. He didn’t remember his wife, Lisa Marshall, who has written for Being Patient in the past — he simply thought of her as his favorite caregiver. So when he saw a couple getting married on TV, he turned to his wife and proposed. They married, again, with not a dry eye in the house. –Phil Gutis

The New York Times, Turning to Books to Grasp the Most Ungraspable Disease, June 17

The simple strings of words that fill the pages of a book are like magic. They can flow into our minds and unravel a knot that we all have inside of us. These knots are topics we wish to set straight but lack the answers to do so. In the case of Sandeep Jauhar — a physician and the author of, most recently, Heart: A History — books provide some form of guidance to loosening that knot. From the insights of how our brains work to adventurous tales of seeking treatments, each novel lends new perspective to Jauhar’s main topic: Alzheimer’s Disease. –Queenie Lacaben

The Washington Post: Alzheimer’s drug sparks emotional battle, May 31

In the Washington Post early this month, Laurie McGinley’s article “Alzheimer’s drug sparks emotional battle as FDA nears deadline on whether to approve” dove deep on the takes of advocates for and critics of Biogen’s recently approved Alzheimer’s drug aducanumab (Aduhelm), turning to Being Patient’s own Phil Gutis, a participant in the drug’s clinical trial, and other experts for insights on the drug’s rollercoaster trials, and what lies ahead. Gutis, formerly a reporter for the New York Times, started to notice the signs of memory loss a few years back, getting lost on familiar roads, and forgetting people he knew fairly well. He responded to an ad for Biogen’s aducanumab clinical trial in 2016. “There was just a fogginess I remember having a couple of years ago that I don’t really feel I have now,” Gutis told the Washington Post in wondering what would happen if the FDA rejected aducanumab outright and halted trials. “Would my world become fuzzy again? I don’t want to go backward.” –Alexandra Marvar

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