Susan always recognized that when she retired she would be living an active lifestyle. She travels a lot and at 68 she’s been to more than 12 countries and is planning many more trips. On any given day, you might find her enjoying the lake, tackling a new hiking trail with the grandchildren, or volunteering at the local soup kitchen.
Susan always has something new to do or see. But sometimes, Susan can’t help but be concerned about how dementia or cognitive decline could totally change her life.
Her mother exhibited first signs of dementia when she was around Susan’s age. Susan watched her mother, who she had always loved and respected, struggle more and more with daily tasks over a 15 year period. She started to become forgetful. There finally came a time when she often couldn’t recognize Susan anymore.
Having seen what her mother went through, Susan has always attempted to remain healthy, eating a balanced diet and exercising. But she wonders, is she doing enough? Is there anything else she can do that’s been shown to delay cognitive decline and dementia?
Luckily, there are things that can be done to prevent cognitive decline. Here are just three.
1. Get Exercise
Susan learned that she’s already on the right track. She does try to get the suggested amount of exercise each day.
Lots of research supports the fact that people who do modest exercise consistently as they age have a reduced risk for mental decline and dementia. These same studies show that individuals who are already dealing with some form of cognitive decline also have a positive effect from consistent exercise.
Scientists think that exercise might ward off cognitive decline for several really important reasons.
- Exercise decreases the deterioration of the nervous system that ordinarily happens as we get older. The brain needs these nerves to communicate with the body, process memories, and think about how to do things. Exercise slows this breakdown so researchers believe that it could also slow mental decline.
- Neuroprtection factors might be increased with exercise. Your body has mechanisms that protect certain types of cells from damage. Scientists think that an individual who exercises might produce more of these protectors.
- Exercise reduces the risk of cardiovascular disease. Nutrients and oxygen are transported to the brain by blood. Cells will die when cardiovascular disease blocks this flow of blood. Exercise may be able to delay dementia by keeping these vessels healthy.
2. Have Vision Problems Treated
An 18-year study of 2000 people with cataracts, showed that getting cataract surgery halved the rate of mental decline in the group who had them removed.
Preserving healthy eyesight is important for mental health in general even though this study only concentrated on one common cause of eyesight loss.
People often begin to isolate themselves from friends and retreat from things they love when they lose their eyesight at an older age. Additional studies have investigated connections between social isolation and worsening dementia.
If you have cataracts, don’t just dismiss them. If you can take steps to improve your vision, you’ll also be safeguarding yourself against the progression of dementia.
3. Get Hearing Aids
You might be heading towards mental decline if you have neglected hearing loss. The same researchers in the cataract study gave 2000 different participants who had hearing loss a hearing aid. They used the same methods to test for the progression of mental decline.
The results were even more significant. The individuals who got the hearing aids saw their dementia progression rates decline by 75%. In other words, whatever existing dementia they might have currently had was nearly completely stopped in its tracks.
There are some probable reasons for this.
The social aspect is the first thing. People tend to go into seclusion when they have neglected hearing loss because interacting with friends at restaurants and clubs becomes a struggle.
Second, when somebody slowly begins 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.
As a matter of fact, researchers have actually compared the brains of people with neglected hearing loss to people who wear hearing aids using an MRI. The brain actually shrinks in individuals with untreated hearing loss.
That’s definitely not good for your memory and mental abilities.
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. Learn how you can hear better with today’s technological advancements in hearing aids.