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Untreated Vision Loss Linked to Accelerated Cognitive Decline

Results of a recent study published in JAMA Network Open (July 2021) suggest that significant cognitive decline can result from untreated vision problems in the elderly population.

For the Baltimore Longitudinal Study of Aging, researchers gathered data on 1,202 men and women between the ages of 60 and 94. They administered vision and cognitive tests every one to four years between 2003 and 2019 and discovered that those who scored lowest on initial vision tests were more likely to show a cognitive decline over the course of the study. This decline was observed to be quite broad, including memory, language, attention and the ability to identify and find objects.

Good Eye Care Can Help Ward Off Cognitive Decline

Fortunately, this decline isn’t inevitable. A separate study published in JAMA Ophthalmology (September 2018) suggests that the risk of cognitive decline decreases significantly in people who are able to maintain good eye health and clear vision.

One of the doctors in the study, Dr. Bonnielin K. Swenor, observed that people with vision loss will often withdraw from physical and social activity, further increasing their risk of cognitive decline. On the other hand, maintaining good eye health will not only reduce the risk of cognitive decline in and of itself, but will encourage activities and hobbies that will further reduce risk.

Maintaining your long-term eye health and clear vision requires vigilance, but the benefits will extend well beyond your eyes as they will also enhance the quality of life and maintain your cognitive skills. Speak to your eye doctor today about regular eye exams for common eye diseases and conditions. Early detection and treatment of vision problems will contribute to your long-term physical and cognitive health.

At Lakeline Vision Source, we put your family’s needs first. Talk to us about how we can help you maintain healthy vision. Call us today: 512-918-3937 or book an appointment online to see one of our Cedar Park eye doctors.

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FAQs

How often should I be visiting my eye doctor to maintain good eye health?

Regular eye exams are a key part of maintaining long-term eye health and visual acuity. Early detection and treatment of common eye conditions increases the likelihood that potential eye damage and vision loss can be prevented.

Eye care professionals recommend that adults with healthy eyes and vision see their eye doctor at least once every two years. Those over the age of 60, or who have underlying conditions like diabetes, or who are at risk of developing macular degeneration, cataracts or glaucoma, should see their eye doctor at least once a year, or as directed by their optometrist. In these cases, your eye doctor will evaluate your specific circumstances and recommend how often to undergo a comprehensive eye exam.

Are there specific eye diseases that are linked strongly to cognitive decline?

A study in the British Journal of Ophthalmology suggests links between the development of Alzheimer’s or dementia and a history of age-related macular degeneration, cataracts or diabetes-related eye disease.

Glaucoma was also linked to dementia, though no direct link was found to Alzheimer’s.

Links between cognitive decline and eye health were even stronger where study participants had more than one eye disease, or if they had a history of diabetes, stroke, heart attack or high blood pressure.

6 Ways To Maintain Eye Health If You’re Over 50

Aging and certain lifestyle choices can affect your vision, especially if you’re in your 50’s and up. While it’s normal for your eyes and vision to change, there are certain actions you can take to protect your sight.

6 Tips for 50+ Eye Health

  1. Eat Well

    A well-balanced diet helps maintain a healthy body including healthy eyes, and reduces your odds of developing some very serious eye diseases. Nutrients and nutritious foods, which help prevent vision loss include:

    • Vitamin A: Carrots, spinach, kale, egg yolks, dairy products
    • Vitamin C: Citrus fruits and juices, broccoli, potatoes, green peppers
    • Vitamin E: Whole grains, eggs, sunflower seeds, vegetable oils
    • Fatty Acids: Coldwater fish, such as mackerel, rainbow trout and salmon; corn oil, sunflower oil
    • Lutein: Kale, spinach, broccoli, brussels sprouts, corn
    • Zinc: Poultry, meat, fish, dairy products, whole grains
  1. Quit Smoking

Smoking can significantly increase the chances of developing age-related macular degeneration and cataracts, as well as diabetic retinopathy in diabetics. So if you’re a smoker, the sooner you quit, the better.

  1. Exercise

Exercising for at least 20 minutes a day is great for your whole body, including your eyes, by increasing blood flow to the optic nerve and retina! It isn’t necessary to engage in strenuous exercise—in fact, a brisk walk will suffice.

  1. Protect Your Eyes

Sunglasses

Protecting your eyes from ultraviolet rays with UV-blocking sunglasses can slow down the development of cataracts, prevent sun damage to your retina, and lower the risk of skin cancer near your eyes.

Protective eyewear

Another way to protect your eyes is to wear protective eyewear. If you play sports or work with materials such as wood, glass or metal, protective eyewear can shield your eyes from splinters and shards, as well as fast-moving objects like balls and hockey pucks.

  1. Give Your Eyes a Rest

If you spend a lot of time reading, driving or looking at digital devices, you may develop eye strain and eye fatigue. By implementing the 20-20-20 rule, especially during prolonged computer or smartphone use, you can give your eyes some much-needed rest. All you need to do is this: every 20 minutes look at something 20 feet away for at least 20 seconds.

  1. Have Regular Eye Exams

And finally, a comprehensive eye exam is crucial, as it can detect eye conditions that don’t display any symptoms until vision loss has already occurred.

These conditions include:

    • Age-Related Macular Degeneration
    • Cataracts
    • Glaucoma
    • Diabetic Retinopathy

When detected early, treatment can often prevent permanent vision loss or even blindness. Less serious and more common, presbyopia or age-related farsightedness, develops with age, and simply updating your prescription for glasses or contact lenses at your routine eye checkup can keep you enjoying the arm’s-length activities you love.

Age-related vision changes can be challenging, both emotionally and physically. However, some of these can be mitigated by implementing the tips above. Schedule an eye exam with Lakeline Vision Source in Cedar Park to check your eye health today!

Q&A

How does aging affect your eyes?

Aging causes changes in every part of your body, including your eyes. As you age, the lens inside your eye begins to harden, which leads to presbyopia (age-related farsightedness). This makes it more difficult for your eyes to focus on near objects and tasks like reading. Other common age-related eye problems include:

  • Age-Related Macular Degeneration
  • Cataracts
  • Glaucoma
  • Diabetic Retinopathy
  • Dry Eyes
  • Floaters
  • Changes to Peripheral Vision

Can I do anything about my chances of vision loss?

It is estimated that half of all visual impairment and blindness can be prevented through early diagnosis and treatment. So make sure you get regular eye exams to ensure that all is in check.

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