Susan is living the active lifestyle she always knew she would in retirement. She travels a lot and at 68 she’s been to more than a dozen countries and is planning a lot more trips. On any given day, you might find her enjoying the lake, discovering a new hiking trail with the grandchildren, or volunteering at the local soup kitchen.
Seeing and doing new things is what Susan is all about. But sometimes, Susan can’t help but be concerned about how dementia or cognitive decline could completely change her life.
Her mother displayed first signs of dementia when she was about Susan’s age. Over a 15 year period, Susan watched as the woman who had always cared for her and loved her without condition struggled with seemingly simple tasks. She forgets random things. There eventually came a time when she often couldn’t identify Susan anymore.
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 isn’t sure that will be enough. Are there proven ways to delay dementia or cognitive decline?
Thankfully, there are things you can do to avert cognitive decline. Three of them are listed here.
1. Exercise Regularly
This one was already part of Susan’s daily life. She does try to get the appropriate amount of exercise every day.
People who do moderate exercise every day have a decreased risk of mental decline according to many studies. This same research shows that people who are already coping with some form of mental decline also have a positive effect from regular exercise.
Scientists believe that exercise might stave off mental decline for numerous really important reasons.
- As an individual gets older, the nervous system degenerates and regular exercise can slow this. Without these nerves, the brain won’t know how to process memories, communicate with the body, or think about how to do things. Scientists believe that because exercise slows this deterioration, it also slows mental decline.
- Exercise may enhance the production of neuroprotection factors. Your body has mechanisms that protect certain types of cells from damage. These protectors might be created at a higher level in individuals who get enough exercise.
- The danger of cardiovascular disease is lowered by exercising. Nutrients and oxygen are carried to the brain by blood. If cardiovascular disease stops this blood flow, cells die. By keeping the vessels and heart healthy, exercise may be able to slow down dementia.
2. Have Vision Problems Treated
An 18-year study of 2000 individuals with cataracts, showed that getting cataract surgery halved the occurrence of cognitive decline in the group who had them extracted.
While this study focused on one common cause for eyesight loss, this study supports the fact that preserving eyesight as you get older is important for your cognitive health.
People frequently begin to seclude themselves from friends and retreat from activities they enjoy when they lose their eyesight at an older age. The connection between dementia and social separation is the subject of other studies.
If you have cataracts, don’t just ignore them. If you can take measures to improve your vision, you’ll also be safeguarding yourself against the progression of dementia.
3. Get Hearing Aids
If you have neglected hearing loss, you may be on your way to mental decline. The same researchers in the cataract study gave 2000 different participants who had hearing loss a hearing aid. They tested the progression of mental decline in the same manner.
The results were even more significant. Mental decline was reduced by 75% in the people who received hearing aids. Essentially, whatever existing dementia they might have currently had was nearly completely stopped in its tracks.
There are some likely reasons for this.
First is the social component. People tend to go into isolation when they have untreated hearing loss because interacting with friends at restaurants and clubs becomes a struggle.
Second, when a person slowly 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 use hearing aids using an MRI. People with untreated hearing loss actually have shrinking of the brain.
Clearly, your mental ability and memory are going to start to falter under these circumstances.
Ward off dementia by wearing your hearing aids if you have them. If you’re procrastinating on getting a hearing aid, even with hearing loss, it’s time to call us for a hearing exam. Learn how you can hear better with today’s technological advancements in hearing aids.