The Aging Brain & Exercise, Diet, Sleep, and Hearing

The Aging Brain & Exercise, Diet, Sleep, and Hearing

In Brain Health, Hearing Health, Hearing Loss, Lifestyle & Leisure, Research by Jeff Baller, Au.D., CCC-A

Jeff Baller, Au.D., CCC-A
Latest posts by Jeff Baller, Au.D., CCC-A (see all)

We all know having hearing loss affects how we communicate. Constantly having to ask people to repeat themselves can be exhausting and frustrating. However, hearing loss has far-reaching effects. Did you know that hearing loss also affects how our brain ages?

An Aging Brain and Dementia

Dementia is a grouping of neurodegenerative diseases classified by the impedance of two or more brain functions, such as memory, ability to follow tasks, and social skills. Current estimates are that about 5.8 million people in the United States have Alzheimer’s disease and related dementias, including 5.6 million aged 65 and older. Dementia can be devastating not only for the person affected but for loved ones and caregivers who must be there providing 24/7 care, as motor function and the ability to perform everyday tasks gradually becomes lost. Age is one of the greatest factors for dementia, and while we can’t reverse age, several other factors increase our risk for dementia that we can reverse.

“Exercise, diet, sleep, and hearing are four major factors that impact our aging,” explains Stephen M. Stahl, MD, Ph.D., adjunct professor of psychiatry, University of California San Diego during a session at the 2017 Neuroscience Educational Institute (NEI) Congress. Let us explore these four factors which contribute to brain gaining and dementia and what we can do to prevent it!

As the Brain Ages

It’s common for memory suffers a little as we age. Our brains are at peak health in our early 20s and start to recede from our prime as early as our mid 40’s. However, the factors affecting dementia are much more severe than that, affecting—remembering, planning and organizing, making decisions, and much more. Aging is known to have deleterious effects on cerebral white matter. While the gray matter of the brain facilitates information processing, and the white matter facilitates information transfer; When shrinkage of white matter occurs due to alterations in myelin. Myelin is responsible for transferring information quickly through nerves and when shrinkage of white matter occurs, information may struggle to be delivered via the brain, throughout the body.

“In normal aging, our brains slow down,” explains Stahl. “Intelligence remains stable, but we become less mentally flexible. We have longer processing time and declines in motor, sensory, and cognitive abilities.”

The Importance of Exercise as We Age

Everyone is always touting the importance of exercise for improving heart health, mood blood pressure, and more. It’s no surprise that regular exercise also supports brain health. Stahl acting as NEI chairman, reported a 32% reduction in the risk of dementia for participants who exercised 3 or more times per week when compared with those who exercised less than 3 times per week. While you can’t stop aging it doesn’t mean that you have to let it keep you from staying active and enjoying the life you love. Staying active keeps your mind healthy. Treating hearing can help you connect to others and be aware of your surroundings which allows you to stay active and able.

A Healthy Diet as We Age

Along with regular exercise, a healthy diet can keep blood flowing in your brain and keep you sharper for longer. What is a brain-healthy diet? Well, prioritizing vegetables and fruits along with whole grains and lean proteins such as fish and poultry is a start. In addition, it’s recommended that you avoid processed foods, sugars, and excess alcohol. This not only supports your brain but your hearing as well. Just as your brain relies on a healthy supply of blood to stay in optimal health, your ears do too. Within your inner ear, tiny hair-like cells called stereocilia transmit audio information to your brain. When the stereocilia become damaged it impedes the delivery of sound. The stereocilia rely on a healthy supply of oxygenated blood and when they are deprived due to poor diet issues it can lead to hearing loss.

Healthy Sleep Habits

As we age it becomes more difficult to get the sleep we need. We tend to sleep lighter and for shorter periods.“Sleep and wake disorders are prevalent in older adults, with ~50% having insomnia and ~50% having sleep-disordered breath,” said Stahl. Our brain relies on regular sleep to maintain optimal health and synthesis short-term memories into long-term ones.

Professional Hearing Services

If you suspect you have a hearing loss it’s important to act right away. Staying on top of your hearing health means staying on top of your brain health as well. The first step is to schedule a hearing exam. Schedule one with us today!