Susan always knew that when she retired she would be living an active lifestyle. At 68, she’s now been to over a dozen countries and has lots more on her list. On any given day, you might find her enjoying the lake, exploring a new hiking trail with the grandkids, or volunteering at the local soup kitchen.
Doing and seeing new things is what Susan’s all about. But in the back of her mind, Susan is concerned that cognitive decline or dementia could change all that.
When Susan’s mother was about her age she started to show the first signs of mental decline. Susan watched her mother, who she had always loved and respected, struggle more and more with daily tasks over a 15 year period. She’s becoming forgetful. At some point, she could only recognize Susan on a good day.
Having seen what her mother went through, Susan has always tried to stay healthy, eating a well-balanced diet and getting plenty of exercise. But she wonders, is she doing enough? Is there anything else she can do that’s been found to slow cognitive decline and dementia?
Fortunately, it is possible to prevent cognitive decline by doing a few things. Here are only three.
1. Get Exercise
Susan learned that she’s already on the right track. Each day she attempts to get at least the recommended amount of exercise.
Individuals who do moderate exercise daily have a reduced risk of mental decline according to many studies. They’ve also shown a positive impact on people who are already encountering symptoms of cognitive decline.
Here are a number of reasons why researchers think regular exercise can ward off cognitive decline.
- Exercise slows the degeneration of the nervous system that ordinarily occurs as we get older. The brain uses these nerves to communicate with the body, process memories, and think about how to do things. Scientists think that because exercise slows this deterioration, it also slows cognitive decline.
- Neuroprtection factors might be increased with exercise. Your body has mechanisms that protect certain types of cells from damage. Scientists think that a person who exercises might produce more of these protectors.
- Exercise lowers the risk of cardiovascular disease. Oxygen and nutrients are carried to the brain by blood. Cells will die when cardiovascular disease obstructs this blood flow. Exercise may be able to slow down dementia by keeping these vessels healthy.
2. Address Vision Problems
An 18-year study of 2000 individuals with cataracts, showed that getting cataract surgery halved the rate of mental decline in the group who had them removed.
While this research focused on one common cause for eyesight loss, this study backs the fact that preserving eyesight as you age is important for your mental health.
People often begin to isolate themselves from friends and retreat from activities they enjoy when they lose their eyesight at an older age. Further studies have investigated connections between social separation and worsening dementia.
If you have cataracts, don’t just ignore them. 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 untreated hearing loss, you could be on your way to mental decline. The same researchers in the cataract research gave 2000 different people who had hearing loss a hearing aid. They tested the progression of mental decline in the same manner.
They got even more remarkable results. The group who received the hearing aids saw their dementia progression rates decrease by 75%. Essentially, whatever existing dementia they may have currently had was nearly completely stopped in its tracks.
There are some probable reasons for this.
The social component is the first thing. People tend to go into seclusion when they have neglected hearing loss because socializing with friends at restaurants and clubs becomes a struggle.
Also, a person slowly forgets how to hear when they begin to lose their hearing. If the individual waits years to get a hearing aid, this deterioration progresses 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. The brain actually shrinks in people with neglected hearing loss.
That’s definitely not good for your memory and mental capabilities.
If you have hearing aids, wear them to ward off dementia. If you have hearing loss and are reluctant to get hearing aids, it’s time to schedule a visit with us. Find out how you can hear better with today’s technological advancements in hearing aids.