Making sense of maintaining our senses

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  • Gabriela Campos/Santa Fe New Mexican via AP Jackie Alberdi visiting from Miami smells a fresh green Chile from Los Chile Bros. in Santa Fe, N.M., on Aug. 9.

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    Ellen F. OíConnell/Hazleton Standard-Speaker via AP Noah Slusser takes a taste of honey during a bee presentation held Aug. 7 in Conyngham, Pa.

  • Gabriela Campos/Santa Fe New Mexican via AP Jackie Alberdi visiting from Miami smells a fresh green Chile from Los Chile Bros. in Santa Fe, N.M., on Aug. 9.

  • 1

    Ellen F. OíConnell/Hazleton Standard-Speaker via AP Noah Slusser takes a taste of honey during a bee presentation held Aug. 7 in Conyngham, Pa.

We donít have to lose our hearing, sight, smell, taste and touch just because the years are adding up

By JERRY HITCHCOCK

Staff Writer

We all have to face it sooner or later. As we age, many changes occur in our bodies. Some of those changes will inevitably alter our abilities, reactions and strength year to year.

Staying on top of your health is important to retaining your vitality as the years go by. Although many things are out of our control, there are steps to ensure you retain your senses well into your golden years.

The old adage ďuse it or lose itĒ definitely applies to your senses. If you have been subjected to a harsh, sense-robbing environment, it is even more important to take steps now to hold on to what youíve got.

Your hearing can take a beating due to loud environments or sharp sounds at certain frequencies. Research is now linking dementia to hearing loss, so wearing foam ear plugs to protect your hearing is quite important. Keeping your weight, blood sugar and blood pressure in check helps to keep the tiny arteries that support the hair cells in your inner ear healthy. The hair cells are what help your body maintain balance, helping you avoid falls. All in all, our ears do a lot for you ó make sure you do something for them.

Next, letís focus on your sight. Two of the most important things you can do for your eyes involve regular exercise and enough sleep. Regular activity will help maintain adequate blood flow to your eyes, and good sleep is key to removing irritants and allowing your body enough time to lubricate your eyes before another day of hard work for your pupils.

Heading just a bit south, we come to that pair of nostrils that do much more than pull air in and release the exhaust. Apparently, there is now research that breathing strong fumes from cleaning products and chemicals can have an adverse affect the nerve endings high up in your nose that are responsible for processing smells and sending signals to your brain.

And again, research is also showing that regular exercise (and refraining from heavy drinking) is key to maintaining nose health.

Regular ďsmell training,Ē sniffing various stimuli (like roses, lemon, eucalyptus, clove and other spices) can also help in maintaining the ability to register scents.

Dropping down a little further, cells in your taste buds donít regenerate at the same rate as when you were younger, causing many people to season their food and drink at higher levels to get that same taste.

A dry mouth is reason to head to the doctor. Many medications can cause a lack of saliva, and maybe it is time to switch to another drug, to see if that helps. Avoiding alcohol-based mouthwash and using a mouth moisturizer can aid mouth health as well.

On the bright side, those intense flavors that turned you off when you were younger are more easily tolerated now. Add some more garlic, try sharp cheeses, cabbage and arugula. Chances are youíll find them more appealing now.

Adding a little sugar to fruit and a small amount of salt to vegetables will make them much tastier.

Finally, fingertips. Touch-sensing receptors can lose their effectiveness as we age, meaning we canít rely on them as much to give us early warning if something is too hot, too sharp, etc. I know this sounds like a broken record, but the experts say we need to get out there and play tennis (pickleball?), dance or walk to make those receptors stay active.

Experts also say we need to touch the dog, get a massage and give and receive affection from those around you. All these activities keep the touch senses ready and waiting for more.

The bottom line is take care of your body and itíll take care of you. A little preparation and prevention goes a long way to our overall health. So wake up and get out there, enjoy the things you love to do, and go ahead and do those things you used to like to do as well.

Make sense.

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