Our five senses help us to make sense of the world. As we get older, many of these senses naturally deteriorate, however certain lifestyle choices can speed up this deterioration process. Here are a few tips on how you can keep your senses sharp.
The biggest way to look after your eyesight is to avoid any activity that strains your eyes.
Using the right lighting when performing tasks such as reading or working on a computer is important. If the surrounding lighting is too dim or too intense, it could damage your eyesight.
Protecting your eyes from the sun is also important. Wearing sunglasses can stop harmful UV rays from entering your eyes, preventing conditions such as photokeratitis and cataracts.
Your diet can also help you to maintain good eye health. Omega-3 fatty acids as found in fish and walnuts have been linked to a decrease in the risk of oracular degeneration, dry eyes, and glaucoma. Meanwhile, foods that are rich in vitamins can also help to protect against vision loss, often linked with a reduced risk of cataracts (this includes carrots, which may not help you see in the dark, but are good for your eyes due to their high vitamin A content).
Once you notice the first signs of vision loss, you should book an eye test immediately. Wearing glasses or contact lenses could help restore your vision and reduce eye strain, preventing further deterioration. Some companies such as Vision Express even offer free eye tests.
Unfortunately, vision loss can be hereditary for some people – myopia (or longsightedness) is a common example of this, although many of the above measures can prevent it from getting worse. Presbyopia (short-sightedness) meanwhile is a common symptom of aging and similarly may not be preventable.
Hearing loss is most commonly caused by prolonged exposure to loud noise. Anything over 85 decibels can be harmful when listened to for sustained periods – this could include loud music or loud machinery. People that work jobs in noisy environments such as air traffic controllers, nightclub workers, and builders are most at risk and should wear ear protection at all times.
Using cotton buds to clean your ears can also cause hearing loss. Cotton buds tend to push wax further into the ear and can cause damage to the inner ear. You’re much better off cleaning your ears out with eardrops or using water. It’s possible to seek professional treatment to get your ears cleaned out if you have an unhealthy build-up of wax.
If you notice that you’re having trouble hearing people or having to turn the TV up very loud, it could be worth getting a hearing test. Companies such as ListenLively offer free hearing tests online. Getting a hearing aid could help you to restore your hearing to normal.
Like vision loss, hearing loss can naturally occur with age. Infections may also lead to hearing loss – if you experience pain as well as the hearing loss you should consult a doctor immediately.
Many factors can affect our sense of touch, causing unusual pain, tingling, and sometimes numbness. Some drugs may cause numbness, whilst sitting or lying awkwardly could also restrict blood circulation and cause a temporary lack of feeling (also a big cause of pin and needles) – however, these are generally forms of temporary lack of sensation. It’s when numbness is ongoing that you should worry as this could be a sign of nerve damage.
Handling hot foods without protective gloves is a common cause of nerve damage in the hands that many chefs can suffer from. By always taking care of hot objects, you can avoid this damage. Similarly, you should take care with tools like blades and sanding machines – injuries involving these tools often lead to nerve damage.
Several medical conditions may also lead to nerve damage, causing unusual tingling and numbness in arms or legs. A few conditions that can cause this include diabetes, HIV, lupus, vasculitis, vitamin b12 deficiency, and Lyme disease.
Conditions like carpal tunnel syndrome can also cause numbness by putting pressure on nerves, usually as the result of an RSI. Multiple sclerosis is another disease that leads to a gradual lack of feeling (the cause of this disease is largely unknown and thought to be genetic – although it has been linked with a lack of vitamin D, as well as habits like smoking).
In all cases where you may feel unusually prolonged numbness, it’s a good idea to consult a doctor. You may not be able to reverse numbness caused by nerve damage, however, you may still be able to stop the condition from developing.
Many people experience a loss of smell when they have a cold or are bunged up from an allergy. However, there are causes for a lack of smell which can cause long-term damage.
Smoking is one bad habit that can permanently damage the sense of smell. By quitting smoking, you can protect nerve receptors in the nose.
You may also want to be careful when breathing in certain chemicals. If you work with pesticides or solvents, you could be at risk of animism – wearing a protective mask is advised.
If you think you’re losing your sense of smell you should always see a doctor. This is wise just to rule out conditions such as polyps.
The sense of taste and smell are strongly linked and as a result, both are affected by similar factors.
Smoking is a major cause of lack of taste. This is because smoking kills taste receptors (in serious cases it can lead to oral cancer). Fortunately, taste receptors can regenerate, so by giving up smoking you may regain your sense of taste.
Poor dental hygiene and the use of certain medications may also negatively affect your sense of taste. It could be worth seeing a doctor if you’re suffering from a serious lack of taste (it’s worth noting that a cold can sometimes cause a temporary lack of taste).