Let’s start with some quick facts
There are currently 50 million people world-wide living with dementia. Of these 44 million have Alzheimer’s disease. This figure could be higher as many people have no formal diagnosis.
But did you also know that 90% of these cases of Alzheimer’s disease are preventable?
Yes, according to Drs Sherzai of the Healthy Mind Initiative, that’s correct – 90% preventable from all contributing risk factors. These risk factors include lifestyle, genetics, environment and injury.
Recent studies have discovered that your hearing, or rather lack off, may be linked to dementia and cognitive decline. But the good news is that simply using a hearing aid has shown very promising results in preventing dementia.
What your ears hear
An initial study by University of Melbourne researchers has shown good results with the use of hearing aids. 99 older adults began wearing hearing aids. After 18 months the researchers found significant cognitive improvements in nearly all the participants. 97.3 per cent of participants showed promising results in executive function. Executive function is the ability to plan, organise and initiate tasks, and is something that is often lacking in those living with dementia.
With initial findings like these, there is much hope that future studies will find more links between hearing aids and preventing dementia and cognitive decline. If these future studies do prove to be successful, it seems like we may have found a very cost-effective and relatively simple way to delay dementia, prevent dementia and significantly improve cognitive function in the ageing brain.
To find out more about this study at the University of Melbourne click here.
How’s your sense of smell?
The Inability to recognise odours has been linked to Alzheimer’s disease.
Neurologist Dr William Kreisl has studied the link between smell identification and Alzheimer’s disease. What he found is that the inability to identify odours seems to occur often in early-stage Alzheimer’s disease and before other symptoms present themselves.
While there is no direct link that tells us that a lack of smell equals a diagnosis of Alzheimer’s disease, what these tests did find was that those participants who could smell well on the test did not have Alzheimer’s disease related symptoms. Those who had trouble identifying odours were three times as likely to experience memory decline in the months following the test. While the memory declines were linked to neurodegenerative diseases, they could not identify if they were all due to Alzheimer’s disease, or other diseases such as Huntington’s or Parkinson’s disease. What the odour tests do tell us is that participants who easily recognise odours are at a lower risk of developing Alzheimer’s disease.
Easy eye test
While wearing glasses may not prevent dementia (or at least there is no research to support this as yet), nor does wearing glasses prove you may experience more rapid cognitive decline, what the eyes do tell us is our potential for developing Alzheimer’s disease.
Trials with eye tests have shown potential in identifying Alzheimer’s disease in its preclinical phase. Eye tests identified retinal Amyloid-beta plaques in the Alzheimer’s disease subject group and none in the non-Alzheimer’s disease group. Although still in its early stages, this type of testing shows much promise in picking up Alzheimer’s disease before symptoms start to appear, meaning that the person could start putting risk minimisation strategies into place immediately. This type of test also has the positive of being inexpensive and non-invasive.
So, you can “see” how important our senses are in predicting, maintaining and improving our cognitive abilities as we age. Look after your sensory organs. In fact, look after your whole body, mind and spirit so that you give yourself the best opportunity to age well.
 Kreisl, W.C., et al. (2018). Odor Identification Ability Predicts PET Amyloid Status and Memory Decline in Older Adults. Journal of Alzheimer’s Disease 62(4), pp 1759-1766. doi: 10.3233/JAD-170960