Susan always recognized that after she retired she would be living an active lifestyle. She travels a lot and at 68 she’s been to over a dozen countries and is planning many more trips. On some days she can be found tackling a hiking trail with her grandchildren, on others she will be volunteering at a local soup kitchen, and sometimes you will see her out on the lake.
Doing and seeing new things is what Susan’s all about. But at times, Susan can’t help but worry about how cognitive decline or dementia could completely change her life.
When Susan’s mother was about her age she started exhibiting the first signs of mental decline. Susan watched her mother, who she had always respected and loved, struggle more and more with daily tasks over a 15 year period. She started to become forgetful. At some point, she could only recognize Susan on a good day.
Having experienced what her mother went through, Susan has always tried to stay healthy, eating a balanced diet and exercising. But she wonders, is she doing enough? Are there established ways to slow dementia or cognitive decline?
Fortunately, it is possible to ward off cognitive decline by doing a few things. Here are only three.
1. Get Exercise
Susan found out that she’s already on the right track. Each day she attempts to get at least the recommended amount of exercise.
Lots of research supports the fact that individuals who do moderate exercise consistently as they get older have a decreased risk for mental decline and dementia. They’ve also had a positive effect on people who are already noticing symptoms of mental decline.
Scientists believe that exercise might ward off cognitive decline for several really important reasons.
- Exercise decreases the degeneration of the nervous system that typically occurs as we get older. The brain uses these nerves to communicate with the body, process memories, and think about how to do things. Exercise slows this deterioration so scientists think that it could also slow cognitive decline.
- Neuroprtection factors might be enhanced with exercise. There are mechanisms in your body that protect some cells from damage. These protectors may be produced at a higher level in people who get enough exercise.
- The danger of cardiovascular disease is lowered by exercising. Blood carries nutrients and oxygen to cells in the brain. Cells will die when cardiovascular disease obstructs this blood flow. Exercise might be able to slow down dementia by keeping these vessels healthy.
2. Treat Vision Problems
The rate of cognitive decline was cut almost in half in people who had their cataracts extracted according to an 18-year study carried out on 2000 subjects.
While this research focused on one common cause for loss of eyesight, this study backs the fact that preserving eyesight as you get older is important for your cognitive health.
People often begin to seclude themselves from friends and withdraw from activities they love when they lose their eyesight at an older age. The link between dementia and social separation is the subject of other studies.
Getting cataracts treated is essential. You’ll be safeguarding yourself against the development of dementia if you do what you can to maintain healthy vision.
3. Get Hearing Aids
If you have neglected hearing loss, you might be on your way to mental decline. The same researchers in the cataract study gave 2000 different participants who had hearing loss a hearing aid. They tested the progression of mental decline in the same manner.
The results were even more significant. Mental decline was decreased by 75% in the people who were given hearing aids. So the dementia symptoms they were already experiencing simply stopped.
There are some likely reasons for this.
The social component is the first thing. People will often go into isolation when they have untreated hearing loss because socializing with friends at restaurants and clubs becomes a challenge.
Second, when a person slowly begins to lose their hearing, the brain forgets how to hear. If the person waits years to get a hearing aid, this deterioration advances into other parts of the brain.
In fact, researchers have actually compared the brains of people with untreated hearing loss to people who wear hearing aids using an MRI. People with neglected hearing loss actually have shrinking of the brain.
That’s definitely not good for your memory and mental abilities.
If you have hearing aids, wear them to stave off dementia. If you have hearing loss and are hesitant to get hearing aids, it’s time to make an appointment with us. Find out how you can hear better with today’s technological advancements in hearing aids.