Susan is living the active lifestyle she always knew she would in retirement. At 68, she’s now visited over a dozen countries and has lots more on her list. On some days she can be found investigating a hiking trail with her grandkids, on others she will be volunteering at a local soup kitchen, and sometimes you will see her out enjoying the lake.
Susan always has something new to do or see. But sometimes, Susan can’t help but worry about how cognitive decline or dementia could totally change her life.
When Susan’s mother was around her age she began showing the first signs of cognitive decline. Susan watched her mother, who she had always loved and respected, struggle more and more with everyday tasks over a 15 year period. She forgets random things. There eventually came a time when she often couldn’t identify 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. Are there established ways to slow dementia or cognitive decline?
Thankfully, there are things you can do to stave off cognitive decline. Here are just three.
1. Exercise Everyday
This one was already part of Susan’s day-to-day life. Each day she tries to get at least the recommended amount of exercise.
People who do modest exercise daily have a reduced risk of mental decline according to many studies. 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 a number of really important reasons.
- Exercise slows the deterioration of the nervous system that typically occurs as we get older. The brain needs these nerves to communicate with the body, process memories, and consider how to do things. Exercise slows this deterioration so scientists think that it could also slow mental decline.
- Neuroprtection factors may be enhanced with exercise. 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. Oxygen and nutrients are carried to the brain by blood. Cells will die when cardiovascular disease blocks this flow of blood. Exercise might be able to delay dementia by keeping these vessels healthy.
2. Address Vision Concerns
The rate of mental decline was cut almost in half in individuals who had their cataracts removed according to an 18-year study carried out on 2000 people.
Maintaining healthy eyesight is essential for cognitive health in general even though this study only focused on one prevalent cause of eyesight loss.
Eyesight loss at an older age can lead a person to retreat from their circle of friends and quit doing things they love. The connection between dementia and social separation is the subject of other studies.
If you have cataracts, don’t just dismiss them. If you can take measures to sharpen your vision, you’ll also be protecting yourself against the progression of dementia.
3. Get Hearing Aids
If you have neglected hearing loss, you may be on your way to cognitive decline. The same researchers in the cataract study gave 2000 different people who had hearing loss a hearing aid. They tested the advancement of cognitive decline in the same way.
They got even more impressive results. The individuals 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.
The social aspect is the first thing. People will often go into seclusion when they have neglected hearing loss because socializing with friends at restaurants and clubs becomes a challenge.
Second, when a person slowly begins 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 untreated hearing loss to people who use 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.
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 schedule a visit with us. Learn how you can hear better with today’s technological advancements in hearing aids.