We all know you should eat right and exercise, but one benefit you may not have thought of: healthy living can help protect your senses as you get older.
As we age sensory changes include a decline in sight and peripheral vision, hearing, smell and taste. However, the good news is that studies show nutritional intake and exercise can actually make a difference.
Listed below are 10 ways to improve your senses:
1. One of the most important things you can do is quit smoking. Nothing screws up your smell and taste receptors like cigarettes. Long term smoking can damage the olfactory (sniffing) nerves in the back of your nose. In addition, smoking increases your risk of cataracts, glaucoma, dry eyes, and age-related macular degeneration.
2. Zinc deficiencies have been linked to loss of smell. Try eating zinc-rich foods, like oysters, lentils, and sunflower seeds.
3. Recent studies suggest that when you exercise your sense of smell is sharper, you boost hearing function, and improve your eyesight, so now you have one more reason to stay fit!
4. Specific supplements can support hearing as we age. For example, niacin is known to dilate capillaries and promotes blood flow to the tiny blood vessels in the inner ear that feed the nerve. Niacin rich foods include lean red meat, fish, milk and other dairy products, almonds, seeds, wheat products, green leafy vegetables.
5. A study published in The Archives of Ophthalmology found that people who ate the most fruit were the least likely to develop age-related macular degeneration, the leading cause of blindness in older people. So enjoy some blueberries!
6. Be sure and drink enough water. Dry mouth, whether caused by medication or simply dehydration, can adversely affect your sense of taste, says Evan Reiter, M.D., an otolaryngologist at Virginia Commonwealth University’s Eye & Ear Specialty Center in Richmond.
7. Studies have found that lutein, a nutrient especially abundant in spinach, may prevent macular degeneration and cataracts.
8. Limit your alcohol intake. The sense of smell declines as blood alcohol levels rise, studies show.
9. Make fish a regular part of your diet. A study from Harvard researchers found women who ate the least amount of fish had the highest risk of dry eye syndrome.
10. Eat foods rich in vitamin A, like sweet potatoes, to improve your night vision. Really, when you think about it, the studies are just common sense. If eating right and exercising is good for one part of the body, such as the heart, it will benefit other parts as well. It’s all connected. Eating well is a feast for your five senses, and will help improve your senses at the same time. So take care of your hearing, eyesight, taste, and smell by taking proper care of your body.