Sharpen Your Senses

Let’s face it: most of us would like to have super senses that would allow us to see in the dark or hear what our colleagues are saying about us from across a crowded room. But thanks to our lifestyles, many of us end up losing our senses (literally) as we get older.



Don’t take your senses for granted. Take care of your eyes, ears, nose, mouth and hands, and they’ll serve you faithfully for years to come. Here’s how to sharpen, not lose, your senses.


Dry Eyes


Dry eyes are a leading cause of eye inflammation which can result in problems with your sight later on in life. Scientists believe that dry eyes are the result of falling hormone production as you get older. Lower hormone production leads to fewer tears which lead to greater levels of inflammation. The result of this, according to Robert Latkany, the director of a dry eye clinic, is reduced vision, blurriness and burning eyes. Not good.


However, Latkany has some advice on how to prevent it. He says that people who eat plenty of omega-3 oils, whether in the form of fish, flaxseed or capsules, will keep their eyes moist and supple. If you’ve already got dry eyes, then he recommends supplementing your omega-3 regime with dry eye drops, like Restasis. These drops stimulate the tear glands to produce more tears, keeping the eyes healthy.




According to estimates by the website Prevention, more than 50 percent of people will develop cataracts by the age of 80. However, the risk of developing them begins way before you reach old age. Starting in your 40s, your risk of developing cataracts increases.

Wikimedia Commons


You might not think that there’s a lot that you can do to prevent cataracts, but recent research by Tufts University seems promising. They found that people who took a vitamin C supplement for ten years had much lower cataract risk – having 60 percent fewer cataracts than the group who did not take the supplement.


Tufts also recommend that people avoid prolonged sun exposure and that they shun smoking, both of which produce lots of free radicals which can ultimately harm the eyes.


Even if you’ve already got cataracts, all is not lost. These days it’s possible to have surgery to remove and fix a clouded lens, restoring your vision to its former glory.


Faded Smell


Over time, your sense of smell, like the other senses in your body, can fade. According to estimates, around half of people over the age of 65 will report a faded sense of smell. With aging, the receptors in the nose that detect smell die off, leaving you with fewer receptors every year.


There are a couple of ways you can guard yourself against losing your sense of smell. One is to minimize your exposure to household chemicals, and the other is to remove yourself from smoky environments. Smoke, household chemicals, and insecticides can damage the nasal membrane and leave people without such an excellent sense of smell.



Richard Doty, a doctor with a Ph.D. at the University of Pennsylvania has also found evidence that smelling things with a strong smell can help retain your sense of smell for longer. Apparently, smelling things like fresh lavender increases nerve cell activation in the nose which helps more receptors stick around as you get older.


If you’ve lost your sense of smell, Doty says not to give up. You may be able to bring it back, either by getting rid of any blockages or by sniffing strong scents a couple of times a day.


Gradual Hearing Loss


There’s a hearing loss condition called presbycusis that can start as early as your 40s. Usually, this develops either because you have a history of listening to loud noises (for instance, if you were a DJ in your youth) or you suffer from heart disease. Both heart disease and a history of loud noises can damage sound-detecting cells and cause you to have fewer of them as you age. Getting a hearing test is the first part of the solution, especially if you think you’ve experienced damage to the inner part of your ear. Unfortunately, hearing loss is difficult to reverse which means that if you can’t hear very well at the moment, you might want to talk to your doctor about getting a hearing aid.



To prevent your hearing loss accelerating, don’t expose yourself to loud noises (of more than 85 decibels) for extended periods of time. Limit your time listening to your iPod on high volume to less than 90 minutes per day.


Loss Of Sensation


Can you lose your sense of touch? Well, according to science, you can as you age. Your sense of touch is partially transmitted by the elasticity of your skin. The more elastic it is, the more nerve cells are recruited around the area where your skin is being pinched or pressed. But with age, that elasticity can fade, and the number of receptors in our skin can fall.


It should be noted that there are a couple of medications that can destroy your sense of touch. One is called Cardene, a drug designed to reduce blood pressure. Cardene can lead to a dull sense of touch, almost like the skin is numb, but it’s a rare side effect.


As per usual, the best way to prevent a loss of sensation is to live a heart-healthy lifestyle. Living a heart-healthy lifestyle helps to keep all the capillaries that supply your nerve endings healthy, providing them with the nutrients that they need to survive. To keep your respiratory system healthy, stop smoking, avoid saturated fats in animal products and start taking a B12 supplement. B12 has been shown to help people hold onto sensation in their skin.



The bad news is that once a nerve cell dies, it can’t be brought back to life. However, taking drugs like aspirin can increase the width of blood vessels, improving your circulation and increasing the stimulation of the bottom layer of skin. If you experience a sudden loss of sensation, it could be the result of a stroke.

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