Research studies are focusing on various links to dementia which could possibly create a tipping point or hasten disease process. The latest is hearing loss. According to Johns Hopkins and the National Institute on Aging, seniors who experience hearing loss over a period of time are more prone to dementia than seniors who retain their hearing.
Why? So far the reason for the direct cause and effect is not known. Here are the speculations from the investigators: They believe that a common problem responsible for disease process is at the root of both. Or they suggest that the strain of trying to make out sounds and figure out what people are saying might be too stressful for the brain to handle, consequently, the dementia. Another theory proposed is that hearing loss could lead to dementia by making individuals more socially isolated, a known risk factor for cognitive disorders.
The solution might be as easy as getting fitted with a hearing aid. Various researchers report that hearing loss occurs over time and can easily sneak up on a person.
In a separate study poor vision is linked with cognitive impairment. Clearly, poor vision stresses the brain and could possibly be another tipping point into Alzheimer’s. Similar to a hearing aid, getting fitted with glasses or contacts could be another solution.
The take home message is that as you age, it is important to keep your senses sharp. The brain interprets its environment based on input from the senses.
Other suggested links to Alzheimer’s are: high blood pressure, diabetes, stress and isolation. While there are no guarantees as genetics and environmental toxins might not be in your control, here is what you can do to at least improve the odds or postpone the inevitable:
- Adhere to a healthy meal plan. For example, whole grains with plenty of fiber are associated with good health and longevity.
- Exercise daily. Exercise sheds stress and builds new brain cells and enhances synaptic connections. Change up your exercise routine periodically to “wake up your brain.” While you are at it, don’t forget to work on your balance and improve your gait (fast walkers live longer according to research studies).
- Get together with friends and family. Human beings are clannish by nature and need to have a support system.
- If you are a caregiver, you increase your risk for Alzheimer’s due to chronic stress. Make sure that you find daily relief, help and an outlet for fun – get rid of the guilt. Everyone is entitled to an authentic life.
For more information on caregiving read my book, Changing Habits: The Caregivers' Total Workout. To listen to archived radio shows with guest experts visit Turn On Your Inner Light Radio Show