Susan is living the active lifestyle she always thought she would in retirement. At 68, she’s now been to more than a dozen countries and has many more to go. On some days you’ll find her tackling a hiking trail with her grandchildren, 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 in the back of her mind, Susan is worried that cognitive decline or dementia could change all that.
When Susan’s mother was around her age she started to show the first signs of cognitive decline. Susan watched her mother, who she had always loved and respected, struggle more and more with daily tasks over a 15 year period. She forgets random things. Eventually, she could only identify Susan on a good day.
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 wonders, is she doing enough? Are there confirmed ways to slow dementia or cognitive decline?
Thankfully, there are things you can do to stave off cognitive decline. Three of them are listed here.
1. Get Exercise
Susan found out that she’s already going in the right direction. Each day she attempts to get at least the suggested amount of exercise.
Lots of research supports the fact that individuals who do modest exercise regularly as they age have a decreased risk for mental decline and dementia. They’ve also shown a positive impact on people who are already encountering symptoms of mental decline.
Here are a number of reasons why researchers believe consistent exercise can stave off mental decline.
- Exercise decreases the deterioration of the nervous system that commonly happens as we get older. Without these nerves, the brain doesn’t know how to process memories, communicate with the body, or consider how to do things. Researchers think that because exercise slows this breakdown, it also slows mental decline.
- Neuroprtection factors may be increased with exercise. Your body has mechanisms that protect certain types of cells from harm. Scientists believe that an individual who exercises may produce more of these protectors.
- The risk of cardiovascular disease is lowered by exercising. Blood delivers nutrients and oxygen to cells in the brain. If cardiovascular disease stops this blood flow, cells die. Exercise might be able to delay dementia by keeping these vessels healthy.
2. Have Vision Problems Treated
The rate of cognitive decline was cut nearly in half in individuals who had their cataracts extracted according to an 18-year study conducted on 2000 subjects.
While this research focused on one prevalent cause for eyesight loss, this study backs the fact that maintaining eyesight as you get older is important for your cognitive health.
Losing eyesight at an older age can lead a person to disengage from their circle of friends and quit doing things they enjoy. Additional studies have explored connections between social isolation and worsening dementia.
If you have cataracts, don’t just disregard them. If you can take steps to sharpen your vision, you’ll also be protecting yourself against the progression of dementia.
3. Get Hearing Aids
You may be going towards mental decline if you have neglected hearing loss. The same researchers in the cataract research gave 2000 different participants who had hearing loss a hearing aid. They used the same techniques to test for the advance of mental decline.
The results were even more significant. Mental decline was decreased by 75% in the participants who were given hearing aids. So the dementia symptoms they were already experiencing simply stopped.
This has some probable reasons.
The social element is the first thing. Individuals who are dealing with untreated hearing loss often socially isolate themselves because they have a hard time interacting with their friends at social gatherings and events.
Also, a person slowly forgets how to hear when they begin to lose their hearing. The deterioration gradually impacts other parts of the brain the longer the person waits to get their hearing aids.
Researchers have, in fact, used an MRI to compare the brains of individuals with untreated hearing loss to people who use a hearing aid. The brain actually shrinks in individuals with untreated hearing loss.
Obviously, your mental ability and memory are going to start to falter under these circumstances.
If you have hearing aids, wear them to ward off dementia. If you’re putting off on getting a hearing aid, even with hearing loss, it’s time to call us for a hearing assessment. Find out how you can hear better with modern technological advancements in hearing aids.