Susan is living the active lifestyle she always thought she would after retirement. She travels a lot and at 68 she’s been to more than 12 countries and is planning many more trips. On some days you’ll find her 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.
Susan always has something new to do or see. 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 began showing the first signs of cognitive decline. Over a period of 15 years, Susan watched as the woman who had always taken care of her and loved her unconditionally struggled with seemingly simple tasks. She forgets random things. There eventually came a time when she often couldn’t recognize Susan anymore.
Susan has tried to eat a balanced diet and exercise so she could hopefully avoid what her mother went through. But she’s not sure that will be enough. Is there anything else she can do that’s been shown to slow cognitive decline and dementia?
Fortunately, it is possible to prevent cognitive decline by doing a few things. Three of them are listed here.
1. Get Exercise
This one was already part of Susan’s day-to-day life. She does try to get the recommended amount of exercise every day.
Many studies support the fact that individuals who do moderate exercise consistently as they get older have a reduced risk for cognitive decline and dementia. They’ve also had a positive impact on people who are already noticing symptoms of cognitive decline.
Researchers think that exercise may stave off cognitive decline for several really important reasons.
- As a person gets older, the nervous system deteriorates and consistent exercise can slow this. The brain uses these nerves to communicate with the body, process memories, and consider how to do things. Scientists think that because exercise slows this breakdown, it also slows mental decline.
- Exercise may increase the production of neuroprotection factors. Your body has mechanisms that safeguard certain types of cells from harm. Scientists believe that a person who exercises might produce more of these protectors.
- The risk of cardiovascular disease is lowered by exercising. Blood carries oxygen and nutrients to cells in the brain. If cardiovascular disease obstructs this blood flow, cells die. Exercise might be able to delay dementia by keeping these vessels healthy.
2. Have Vision Concerns Treated
An 18-year study of 2000 people with cataracts, demonstrated that having cataract surgery halved the rate of mental decline in the group who had them removed.
While this study concentrated on one common cause for eyesight loss, this study supports the fact that preserving eyesight as you get older is important for your mental health.
Eyesight loss at an older age can lead a person to disengage from their circle of friends and quit doing things they enjoy. Additional studies have investigated connections between social separation and worsening dementia.
Having cataracts treated is crucial. If you can take measures to improve your vision, you’ll also be safeguarding yourself against the advancement of dementia.
3. Get Hearing Aids
You may be going towards cognitive decline if you have untreated hearing loss. The same researchers from the cataract research gave 2000 different participants who had hearing loss a hearing aid. They used the same techniques to test for the progression of mental decline.
They got even more remarkable results. The group who got the hearing aids saw their dementia advancement rates decline by 75%. Put simply, whatever existing dementia they might have currently had was nearly completely stopped in its tracks.
There are some likely reasons for this.
The social aspect is the first thing. People will often go into isolation when they have neglected hearing loss because interacting with friends at restaurants and clubs becomes a challenge.
Second, when a person gradually starts to lose their hearing, the brain forgets how to hear. The degeneration gradually impacts other parts of the brain the longer the person waits to get their hearing aids.
Researchers have, in fact, used an MRI to compare the brains of people with untreated hearing loss to people who use a hearing aid. People who have untreated hearing loss actually experience shrinking of the brain.
That’s definitely not good for your memory and mental capabilities.
Ward off dementia by wearing your hearing aids if you have them. If you have hearing loss and are reluctant to get hearing aids, it’s time to make an appointment with us. Learn about today’s technologically sophisticated designs that help you hear better.