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May's Book
Aging with Grace: What the Nun Study Teaches Us ...
by David Snowdon

Back cover:

Science with a Human Face

“Since the Nun Study began, many of the sisters have become part of my extended family, and my visits to the convents more closely resemble a drop-in from a great-nephew than the arrival of a detached, objective scientist collecting data in the field.”
—Dr. David Snowdon

“The Nun Study represents an absolutely unique American treasure and resource for all of us. The gem that Dr. Snowdon and his colleagues have unearthed will not only change the way you look at yourself and the aging people around you; they’ll serve as catalysts for aging research for many years to come.”
—Ronald Petersen, M.D., Ph.D., Director of the Alzheimer’s Disease Research Center, Mayo Clinic

“There are lessons for all of us in this moving account of the School Sisters of Notre Dame and their commitment to helping us find the causes of Alzheimer’s Disease. I came away with a new respect for the power of faith as well as the beauty and complexity of the human brain.”
—Virginia M. Bell, M.S.W., co-author of The Best Friends Approach to Alzheimer’s Care

“David Snowdon leads us through the enthralling scientific but also very personal journey he has been taking with the School Sisters of Notre Dame. The revelations along the way show us that there is so much we can all do to alter for the better how we age and ultimately how long we live. It is a journey not to be missed!”
—Thomas Perls, M.D., M.P.H., Professor of Medicine, Harvard Medical School

“A beautiful story. Families will find hope and support through the commitment of the sisters who have dedicated their lives to helping others enjoy the gift of life as long as possible.”
—Sigmund Tomkalski, Executive Director, Southeastern Wisconsin Chapter, Alzheimer’s Association

Inside cover:

In 1986 Dr. David Snowdon embarked on a revolutionary scientific study that would forever change the way we view old age. Called the “Nun Study” because it involves a unique population of 678 Catholic sisters, this remarkable long-term project stands today at the forefront of some of the world’s most significant research on aging and Alzheimer’s disease. Dr. Snowdon’s fascinating book combines high-tech brain research with the heartfelt story of the aging nuns who are teaching scientists how we can live longer, healthier lives. Ranging in age from 75 to 106, these bright, articulate, and altruistic 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 a pair of mittens a day and prayed every evening for the more than four thousand students she had taught over the years. We also follow Dr. Snowdon into the laboratory 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 protect the brain
  • Why preventing strokes and depression is key to avoiding Alzheimer’s
  • What role heredity plays and how lifestyle can increase our chances for a mentally vital old age
  • How intangibles like positive spirit, community, and faith contribute to health and longevity
Aging with Grace shows us that old age doesn’t have to mean an inevitable decline into illness and disability; rather, it can be a time of promise and productivity, intellectual and spiritual vigor—a time of true grace. 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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