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 over 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 grandkids, or volunteering at the local soup kitchen.
Seeing and doing new things is what Susan is all about. But at times, Susan can’t help but be concerned about how cognitive decline or dementia could completely change her life.
When Susan’s mother was about her age she began showing the first signs of mental decline. Over a 15 year period, 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 finally 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 steer clear of what her mother experienced. 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?
The good news is, it is possible to prevent cognitive decline by doing a few things. Three of them are listed here.
1. Exercise Regularly
This one was already part of Susan’s everyday life. She does try to get the recommended amount of exercise each day.
People who do modest exercise every day have a reduced risk of mental decline according to many studies. They’ve also shown a positive effect on people who are already noticing symptoms of cognitive decline.
Researchers think that exercise might ward off cognitive decline for a number of very important reasons.
- As an individual ages, the nervous system degenerates and regular exercise can slow this. Without these nerves, the brain won’t understand how to process memories, communicate with the body, or 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 functions that protect certain types of cells from damage. Scientists believe that an individual who exercises may produce more of these protectors.
- Exercise lowers the risk of cardiovascular disease. Blood delivers oxygen and nutrients to cells in the brain. Cells will die when cardiovascular disease blocks this blood flow. By keeping the heart and vessels healthy, exercise may be able to slow down dementia.
2. Have Vision Concerns Treated
An 18-year study of 2000 people with cataracts, showed that having cataract surgery halved the rate of mental decline in the group who had them removed.
While this study concentrated on one prevalent cause for eyesight loss, this study backs the fact that preserving eyesight as you get older is important for your mental health.
People often begin to isolate themselves from friends and retreat from things they enjoy when they lose their eyesight at an older age. The link between cognitive decline and social isolation is the focus of other studies.
Having cataracts treated is crucial. You’ll be safeguarding yourself against the advancement of dementia if you do what’s necessary to preserve healthy vision.
3. Get Hearing Aids
If you have neglected 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 cognitive decline in the same way.
They got even more remarkable results. The group who got the hearing aids saw their dementia progression rates decrease by 75%. So the dementia symptoms they were already noticing simply stopped.
There are some likely reasons for this.
First is the social component. 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 someone gradually starts to lose their hearing, the brain forgets how to hear. If the person waits years to get a hearing aid, this degeneration progresses into other parts of the brain.
In fact, researchers have actually compared the brains of people with neglected hearing loss to people who wear hearing aids using an MRI. People with untreated hearing loss actually have 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 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 modern technological advancements in hearing aids.