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 12 countries and is planning many more trips. On any given day, you may find her enjoying the lake, tackling a new hiking trail with the grandkids, or volunteering at the local children’s hospital.
Susan always has something new to see or do. But in the back of her mind, Susan is worried that cognitive decline or dementia could change all that.
When Susan’s mother was about her age she began exhibiting the first signs of cognitive decline. Over a 15 year period, Susan watched as the woman who had always taken care of her and loved her unconditionally struggled with what seemed to be simple tasks. She forgets random things. There finally came a time when she frequently couldn’t identify Susan anymore.
Having seen what her mother went through, Susan has always attempted to stay healthy, eating a balanced diet and getting plenty of exercise. But she isn’t sure that will be enough. Are there confirmed ways to delay dementia or cognitive decline?
Luckily, there are things that can be done to prevent cognitive decline. Here are only three.
1. Get Exercise
This one was already part of Susan’s day-to-day life. She does try to get the appropriate amount of exercise each day.
Lots of research supports the fact that people who do modest exercise consistently as they get older have a decreased risk for cognitive decline and dementia. These same studies show that individuals who are already experiencing some form of cognitive decline also have a positive impact from regular exercise.
Researchers think that exercise may stave off mental decline for a number of very important reasons.
- As a person ages, the nervous system degenerates and regular exercise can slow this. The brain needs these nerves to communicate with the body, process memories, and think about how to do things. Exercise slows this breakdown so scientists believe that it could also slow cognitive decline.
- Exercise may increase the production of neuroprotection factors. Your body has functions that protect certain types of cells from damage. These protectors may be produced at a higher level in individuals who get enough exercise.
- Exercise decreases the risk of cardiovascular disease. Nutrients and oxygen are carried to the brain by blood. Cells will die when cardiovascular disease blocks this blood flow. By keeping the vessels and heart healthy, exercise may be able to slow down dementia.
2. Have Vision Concerns Treated
The rate of mental decline was cut almost in half in people who had their cataracts extracted according to an 18-year study carried out on 2000 subjects.
While this study focused on one common cause for eyesight loss, this study supports the fact that preserving eyesight as you age is important for your cognitive health.
Losing eyesight at an older age can lead a person to withdraw from their circle of friends and stop doing things they love. Further studies have explored links between social separation and worsening dementia.
If you have cataracts, don’t just ignore them. If you can take steps to improve 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. A hearing aid was given to 2000 people by the same researchers that performed the cataract study. They tested the advancement of cognitive decline in the same manner.
The results were even more remarkable. The individuals who received the hearing aids saw their dementia progression rates decline by 75%. Put simply, whatever existing dementia they might have currently had was almost completely stopped in its tracks.
There are some probable reasons for this.
The social component is the first thing. Individuals who are dealing with untreated hearing loss tend to socially seclude themselves because they struggle to interact with their friends at social clubs and events.
Additionally, a person slowly forgets how to hear when they begin to lose their hearing. The deterioration gradually affects other parts of the brain the longer the person waits to get their hearing aids.
As a matter of fact, researchers have actually compared the brains of people with neglected hearing loss to people who use hearing aids using an MRI. People who have untreated hearing loss actually have shrinking of the brain.
That’s definitely not good for your memory and mental abilities.
If you have hearing aids, wear them to ward off dementia. If you’re procrastinating on getting a hearing aid, even with hearing loss, it’s time to call us for a hearing exam. Learn about today’s technologically sophisticated designs that help you hear better.