“Discover the science behind what really affects our brains, along with practical tips and exercises to improve and maintain brain function into old age.”
In ‘Brain Power,’ Catherine de Lange explores the profound link between our daily choices and brain health, revealing how what we do in our lives shapes our cognitive well-being. This comprehensive guide offers actionable recommendations based on scientific facts to unlock the secrets of a healthy and happy brain.
Catherine de Lange is a distinguished science journalist, editor, and author known for her work on the intersection of science and the human mind.
Catherine’s insightful articles have appeared in reputable publications such as Nature, the Guardian, and the Washington Post, demonstrating her expertise in scientific reporting. Currently, Catherine holds the position of Biomedical Features Editor at New Scientist.
What is the book about?
‘Brain Power’ by Catherine de Lange is a comprehensive guide aimed at improving brain health and happiness. It explores the desire for a healthy brain, whether for enhanced creativity and focus or to prevent mental diseases like Alzheimer’s.
The book is divided into seven parts, each focusing on a specific aspect that influences brain health, including diet, exercise, sleep, relationships, education, and lifestyle factors, and providing a wealth of scientific research summaries along with practical recommendations to incorporate the findings into daily life.
The author defines a healthy brain as one that functions as expected, both structurally and when examined in a brain scanner. The book also discusses the brain’s changes with age and offers strategies to minimise detrimental changes that could lead to conditions like dementia. Additionally, it addresses the concept of a happy brain, which encompasses mood, including mental health conditions like depression and anxiety, as well as stress and ways to improve overall mood.
Table of contents
- PART 1: DIET
- 1. What to eat to boost your mood
- 2. Going hungry could keep your brain young
- 3. The promise of brain-boosting foods
- 4. Alzheimer’s could be the diabetes of the brain
- PART 2: SLEEP
- 5. Sleeping on it improves learning and memory
- 6. The truth about sleep and Alzheimer’s
- 7. Being tired destroys your cognitive abilities
- 8. Sleep is a kind of overnight therapy
- 9. How much sleep do you really need?
- 10. Tiredness can be all in the mind
- PART 3: PHYSICAL EXERCISE
- 11. Exercise is one of the key ways to prevent dementia
- 12. Exercise amps up your brain power
- 13. Exercise can boost your mental wellbeing
- 14. Yoga can change your brain and calm the mind
- 15. Be mindful of mindfulness
- PART 4: MENTAL EXERCISE
- 16. You can grow new brain cells
- 17. Education protects your brain
- 18. The bilingual brain boost
- 19. Music should be part of daily life
- PART 5: SOCIAL LIFE
- 20. Marriage can protect you from dementia
- 21. How loneliness changes your brain
- 22. The healing power of pets
- 23. The mood-boosting benefits of light and dark
- 24. Nature is good for mental health
- PART 6: HEALTHY BODY, HEALTHY MIND
- 25. Inflammation can mess with your mind
- 26. To help avoid Alzheimer’s, take care of your teeth
- 27. Hearing loss is linked to dementia
- PART 7: THE INFLUENCE OF YOU
- 28. Your personality affects your mental health
- 29. Stress doesn’t have to be bad
- 30. How to form healthy habits
Key takeaways from ‘Brain Power’
1Benefits of fasting: hungry brains may live longer
Calorie restriction and intermittent fasting have been linked to neurogenesis, the growth of new brain cells, which is associated with increased cognition and better mood. Fasting has shown positive effects in animal studies, such as improved brain plasticity, better function of synapses, and enhanced memory.
The process of ketosis, triggered during fasting, may contribute to the brain’s ability to adapt to stress and protect itself against diseases like Alzheimer’s. While research in humans is still ongoing, fasting diets like the 5:2 diet or the 8:16 diet have shown promising results in improving cognitive function and memory. What is more, habits acquired through fasting, like mindful eating and avoiding late-night snacking, can have overall health benefits beyond brain health.
2New brain cells can be grown
Contrary to the long-held belief that adult brains are unable to produce new cells, recent studies have shown that humans can grow new brain cells well into old age. Neurogenesis, the growth of new brain cells, has been observed in the hippocampus, the brain’s hub for learning and memory, even in the brains of elderly individuals. The promise of such plasticity in the human brain suggests that altering our environment can potentially stimulate the growth of new brain cells, offering possibilities for warding off mental decline and treating neurological and psychiatric disorders.
Factors like exercise, exposure to novelty, and socialising have been identified as triggers for neurogenesis, prompting further research into finding ways to nurture intellectual regeneration. This discovery challenges the conventional understanding of brain ageing and underscores the profound impact of lifestyle on shaping our brains and, consequently, our identities.
3Solitude can negatively affect brain health
The effects of loneliness on the brain and overall health can be severe. Studies have shown that chronic loneliness can lead to hyper-vigilance, increased inflammation, impaired executive function, cognitive decline, and an elevated risk of mental health problems like depression and anxiety.
Addressing loneliness involves understanding the underlying causes, such as dissatisfaction with social circles, health issues, or life changes, and taking appropriate steps to break the cycle. Cognitive behavioural therapy is an effective intervention to challenge negative thought patterns associated with loneliness. Additionally, building meaningful relationships, seeking a sense of purpose through activities involving others, and volunteering for loneliness charities can contribute to combating loneliness and its detrimental impact on the brain and overall well-being.
Overall rating & strengths and weaknesses, according to readers’ reviews
Offers comprehensive coverage of topics related to brain health.
Gives concise and actionable recommendations on promoting brain health.
Supported by informative and evidence-based research papers and studies.
Contains pictures and graphs.
Ambiguous Study Results: While the author refers to numerous studies to support their points, some of the study results are presented with a level of uncertainty, using phrases like ‘may’ relate to brain health, which may leave readers questioning the validity of certain claims.
Best quotes from ‘Brain Power’
“Similarly, there is no silver bullet. Your best bet for protecting your brain is to take on a combination of the beneficial habits, and let the effects build. This isn’t about a quick fix, but about lifestyle changes that last.”
“One idea here is that pets, especially dogs, can improve mental health by indirect means. For instance, they are a wonderful catalyst for social interactions, and we’ve already heard how important a strong social network is for the mind. Dog owners often become friendly with other dog owners in their local park, which can be a particular boon to those who are at risk of social isolation, such as older people and those with disabilities.”
“They found that compared to those who are married, single and widowed people are at a higher risk of developing the condition – single people have around a 40 per cent higher, and widowed people a 20 per cent higher risk of dementia than those who are married, even after taking into account age and gender.”
‘Brain Power’ by Catherine de Lange is a compelling and enlightening guide that unveils the profound connection between our lifestyle choices and brain health. Backed by rigorous scientific research, the book offers a wealth of actionable recommendations to improve cognitive well-being and foster a happy brain.
This book is a must-read for anyone seeking to enhance their mental clarity, prevent cognitive decline, and embark on a journey to a healthier, happier mind.
Where to buy
You may purchase ‘Brain Power’ on Amazon at the best price. It is available in hardcover and Kindle, so you may choose an option that appeals to you the most.
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