Five Habits To Live Better And Fight Alzheimer’s

Five Habits To Live Better And Fight Alzheimer’s

26/05/22 / Keyword: Alzheimer’s

In his last WEP for ECP, coach Rob talks about following the advice of experts and his father-in-law to improve his quality of life as he gets older. What tips did they give him?

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Useful vocabulary

to live on borrowed time: to continue to live past the time one was expected to die

carer: a person who regularly looks after another person

to dress: to put clothes on a person

hearing aid: a small amplifying device which fits on the ear

to be off: to leave to go somewhere

onset: the beginning of something (probably unpleasant)

to age: to grow older

to fall back on: to have recourse to something when in difficulty

to give it a go: to try to do something

to keep an eye on something: to keep under careful observation

a journal: a record of what you have done, or of descriptions or thoughts, written each day or frequently over a long period

Listen to the audio and read the text.

In his last WEP for ECP, coach Rob talks about following the advice of experts and his father-in-law to improve his quality of life as he gets older. What tips did they give him?

When Eduardo Anitua received the Medalla de Álava for his lifelong contributions to medicine last month, he gave a thought-provoking acceptance speech. “In the last 60 years, our society has been able to extend life expectancy by over 25 years. Many of us who are here today would already be living on borrowed time. The challenge we have now is to improve the quality of those additional years,” explained the renowned investigator who holds over 50 international patents.

I was watching the speech on my phone at my elderly mother and father-in-law’s home while waiting for Gladis, their live-in carer, to dress Vitori (87) and for Jose Mari (85) to put his hearing aids in. We were off to see my mother-in-law’s neurologist to speak about her ‘moderately severe’ Alzheimer’s and if her medication needed changing. Jose Mari is still in relatively good health, but caring for Vitori is exhausting. His unreserved love for her means that he does it unquestioningly.

When Dr. Anitua stated that “our habits both build us and destroy us,” it reminded me of another talk – a TED Talk that I had watched some years ago – by neuroscientist Laura Genova in which she gave some tips on how to combat Alzheimer’s disease and live a better life.

Two things she spoke about have stuck in my mind ever since: amyloid plaques and synapses. Firstly, most scientists agree that an important contributing factor to the onset of Alzheimer’s is the accumulation of amyloid plaques in the brain and that we can help the body eliminate them by sleeping well and by looking after our cardiovascular health. Secondly, we should build what is termed ‘a cognitive reserve’ of neural connections – or synapses – in our brains. We inevitably lose synapses as we age, butif we have a larger reserve to fall back on, we will be able to remember more things. We can do this by constantly learning new, unfamiliar skills such as handicrafts, dancing and languages.

My father-in-law is not a scientist, but as he has far more experience of life than either Dr. Anitua or Laura Genova, I asked him for a single piece of advice that he would give young people. After a moment’s thought he said, “Read a good book that contains good advice,” and he promptly took Svevo Brooks’s The Art Of Good Living off the bookshelf and handed it to me. “Read this,” he told me. It contains some great advice about creating habits that can lead to a healthier and happier life.

I’m not a spring chicken any more (I’m 53), so I’ve decided to follow all this advice by focusing on 5 good habits. It’s all basic common sense really, there’s nothing new under the sun here. And the acronym I’ve invented for them is SLEEP.

S: Sleep well. Get at least 7 to 8 hours of sleep every night. The better you sleep, the more amyloid plaques you will eliminate.

L: Learn new things. Create new neural connections by reading and enjoy new hobbies while making new friends.

E: Eat healthily. The famous Mediterranean diet is a great guide here. But allow yourself occasional treats that break the rules!

E: Exercise regularly. Aerobic exercise improves cardiovascular health. Go for regular walks and enjoy the fresh air.

P: Be at peace with yourself and those around you. Be sociable, help others and live every day to the fullest extent you can.

Putting all these good ideas into practice isn’t easy of course, but I’m giving it a go. I try to resist the temptation of reading or watching TV series until late and attempt to get 8 hours of sleep every night (perhaps the hardest thing to do). I keep an eye on what and how much I eat, and I go for a walk in the country at least twice a week. For the last six months I have written a journal which helps me reflect on my life and recall past events and experiences. But my biggest step is going to be returning to university to study a Tourism degree. After 12 years of intense activity at ECP, I will now dedicate most of my time to learning a new profession and helping to look after my elderly in-laws. Both will be new, enriching experiences.

So, thank you John, Kez, Ali and Darren for making English Coaching Projects the amazing experience it has been, and thank you to all my students, present and past, for putting up with me in class and teaching me so much about the world. I wish you all the best of luck in everything you do!  

Written by ECP coach Rob Hextall

Let’s chat about that!

1. Do you consider yourself to be a ‘spring chicken’? Why/Why not?

2. Does anyone in your family have a carer? Are you a carer?

3. What do you know about Alzheimer’s disease?

4. Give us three pieces (or more) of good advice (about anything).

5. Recommend a book (of any type) and explain why you like it.

6. If you could do any kind of job in the world, what would it be?