Susan is living the active lifestyle she always knew she would after retirement. She travels a lot and at 68 she’s been to more than a dozen countries and is planning many more trips. On any given day, you may find her out on the lake, discovering a new hiking trail with the grandchildren, or volunteering at the local children’s hospital.
Seeing and doing new things is what Susan is all about. But at times, Susan can’t help but be concerned about how dementia or cognitive decline could really change her life.
When Susan’s mother was around her age she began exhibiting the first signs of mental decline. Susan watched her mother, who she had always respected and loved, struggle more and more with everyday tasks over a 15 year period. She forgets random things. At some point, she could only recognize Susan on a good day.
Susan has tried to eat a balanced diet and exercise so she could hopefully avoid what her mother experienced. But she wonders, is she doing enough? Are there confirmed ways to delay dementia or cognitive decline?
Thankfully, there are things that can be done to avert cognitive decline. Three of them are listed here.
1. Get Exercise
Susan learned that she’s already on the right track. Every day she attempts to get at least the recommended amount of exercise.
Individuals who do moderate exercise every day have a decreased risk of cognitive decline according to many studies. This same research shows 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 stave off cognitive decline for a number of very important reasons.
- Exercise decreases the degeneration of the nervous system that typically happens as a person ages. Without these nerves, the brain doesn’t know how to process memories, communicate with the body, or think about how to do things. Exercise slows this deterioration so scientists think that it could also slow cognitive decline.
- Neuroprtection factors may be increased with exercise. There are mechanisms within your body that protect some cells from damage. These protectors may be produced at a higher rate in people who get an abundance of exercise.
- Exercise reduces the risk of cardiovascular disease. Nutrients and oxygen are transported to the brain by blood. Cells will die when cardiovascular disease obstructs this flow of blood. Exercise may be able to slow down dementia by keeping these vessels healthy.
2. Address Vision Concerns
An 18-year study of 2000 individuals with cataracts, showed that having cataract surgery halved the rate of cognitive decline in the group who had them removed.
Maintaining healthy eyesight is important for mental health in general even though this study only focused on one prevalent cause of eyesight loss.
People frequently begin to seclude themselves from friends and withdraw from things they enjoy when they lose their eyesight at an older age. The connection between cognitive decline and social isolation is the subject of other studies.
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
You may be going towards mental decline if you have neglected hearing loss. The same researchers in the cataract study gave 2000 different people who had hearing loss a hearing aid. They tested the progression of cognitive decline in the same way.
The results were even more impressive. The individuals who got the hearing aids saw their dementia advancement rates decrease by 75%. So the dementia symptoms they were already experiencing simply stopped.
There are some likely reasons for this.
First is the social aspect. People who are dealing with neglected hearing loss tend to socially seclude themselves because they have a hard time interacting with their friends at social gatherings and events.
Second, when a person gradually starts to lose their hearing, the brain forgets how to hear. The deterioration gradually impacts other parts of the brain the longer the person waits to get their hearing aids.
In fact, researchers have actually compared the brains of people with neglected hearing loss to people who wear hearing aids using an MRI. People who have untreated hearing loss actually experience shrinking of the brain.
That’s definitely not good for your memory and mental abilities.
Stave off dementia by wearing your hearing aids if you have them. If you’re putting off on getting a hearing aid, even with hearing loss, it’s time to call us for a hearing examination. Learn how you can hear better with today’s technological advancements in hearing aids.