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Protecting Your 5 Senses

the five senses and the brain

There is no doubt that our five senses enhance life. Whether it be our ability to see a magnificent sunset, hear the warbling of a thousand birds or smell the fragrance of a delightful forest. Our five senses are a miraculous gift that enables us to experience the beauty of the world around us. It’s a common assumption, though, that as we age, our senses will just deteriorate as a consequence. There are good reasons to believe this commonly held belief is not as much as an inevitable conclusion as people may think. With the appropriate action, you can maintain your five senses and still maintain a decent quality of life as you do. Here are a few suggestions on what you can do to enjoy your five senses as you age.

The Five Senses

How Smoking affects all of your five senses

five-senses

  • Smoking impacts negatively on our hearing. It restricts your body’s blood flow, including its flow around the inner ear, thus impairing its performance.
  • Smoking was found to significantly increase the effects of visual decay. The study found smokers to be 4 times more likely to experience AMD than nonsmokers.
  • Smoking is known to cause a loss of taste sensitivity. Those over 60 who quit smoking often report an improvement in their sensitivity to taste more
  • Smoking can seriously diminish your sense of smell, so cutting down, or better still, be quitting is only going to improve matters.

Sense of Hearing

Our sense of hearing is nothing short of a wonder of nature. As sound travels through the air creating ripples or sound waves, they eventually impact and impinge upon the eardrum, in turn causing three tiny anvils like bones called ossicles (from the Greek word for bone) to move mechanically backward and forward in symphony with the external sound wave. These movements then cause tiny cilia, further along, to effectively sway back and forth generating electrochemical reactions as they do. Your ears are so sensitive that the eardrum can detect a movement the width of a hydrogen atom. This is an astronomical oversimplification, but just getting a hint at what is involved may inspire you to look after the incredible gift of hearing.

It seems obvious, but avoiding loud noises will help to maintain your hearing, too. While that advice may be obvious, it is easy to forget. Many concert goers, for example, soon get carried away with the thrill of listening to their favorite band and the excitement of live performance may eclipse good judgment. Be aware of what your ears are telling you. If the volume is uncomfortable, don’t ignore it. Exposing your ears to loud music may be comparable to exposing your eyes directly to the sun. No one in their right mind would do that for long, yet many people are exposing their ears to what is the audio equivalent.

Sense of Vision

The Massachusetts Eye and Ear Infirmary published a paper indicating that people who regularly take in foods rich in carotenoids such as those found in dark leafy greens like spinach, cabbage, and collard greens, may be 43 percent less likely to develop macular degeneration. One of the most effective foods in combating this form of visual deterioration was found to be raw spinach.

It’s worth remembering, too, that as we age our bodies may find it more difficult to obtain all the required nutrients just from our diet. It may need a little assistance. You can help your vision by adding vitamin supplements to your diet. A healthy diet should consist of plenty of fresh, colorful fruits and vegetables. As a general rule (not to be taken to extremes), if it looks good on the eye, it probably is good for you. Many experts recommend between five and nine servings per day to keep the effects of visual decay at bay. Remember, dark green or brightly colored vegetables rich in antioxidants are known to be the most effective, as are foods rich in Omega 3 fatty acids. That means foods like grilled salmon are highly effective at combating visual deterioration.

Studies show that across Europe found people who ate oily fish at least once a week, were 50 percent less likely to develop macular degeneration compared with those who ate fish less than once a week.

Sense of Taste

The taste of good food greatly enhances our quality of life, and a deficiency in your sense of taste has been linked with depression in many cases. From the sweet tastes of exotic fruits to the hot sensations of Oriental spices, all of it adds greatly to life’s enjoyment. Not only does the ability to taste make life that much more enjoyable, but it also prevents us from eating too much salt and sugar, not to mention dangerous substances. Your amazing sense of taste is all down to the 10,000 or so taste buds that live on your tongue, and each one of those tiny bumps, called papillae, hold up to 700 taste buds. Every one of these tiny buds contains between 50 to 80 highly specialized taste-receptor cells which react with specific chemicals producing the sensation of taste. Each taste bud is specialized to detect sweet, salty, sour, bitter, or umami (savory), which sparked into life when they come into contact with that particular chemical. A hugely complex electrochemical chain reaction results in the sensation of taste.

A lack of sensitivity to your taste buds may be down to medication you’re taking, so check with your doctor if a lack of sensitivity has coincided with you taking any medication. It’s important not to simply assume that it’s all down to getting older. There may be a specific reason which may be easy to resolve

Many people have exposed their taste buds to a gigantic overload of not particularly subtle flavors from processed foods, often over many years. Eventually, your taste buds can’t pick up the subtle flavors present in more healthy natural foods. The result is that we long for the stimulation of more exciting processed flavors, which just perpetuates the cycle. Gently weaning yourself off those processed flavors and exposing your taste buds to the more subtle flavors present in natural foods won’t be easy at first, but in a surprisingly short time, you will likely notice you are able to detect flavors you may not have tasted in years.

Sense of Smell

Closely connected with the sense of taste is the sense of smell. Like other senses, only when it becomes impaired in some way do we suddenly realize how much our life experience is enhanced by it. Granted, some damage may be inevitable with age, but don’t just assume you’re powerless against it. Again, it’s possible that medication you’re on may be causing a loss in your ability to smell, so it’s a good idea to consult your doctor. On the other hand, it may be a sinus or dental problem that could be dealt with easily.

At the end of the day…

Our five senses play an important role in our enjoyment of life and also safeguard against coming into contact with dangerous substances. By looking after your five senses through a good diet and sound lifestyle choices, you can hopefully enjoy the miracle of your body’s senses for many years to come.

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