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Impaired vision may be an early warning sign of cognitive decline

by , 05 March 2018
Impaired vision may be an early warning sign of cognitive decline
Studies have already found that hearing impairment and increased risk of cognitive decline in old age go hand in hand, and a new study suggests that impaired vision may carry the same risk.

The study, published in JAMA Ophthalmology, found that people who had problems with distance vision were also two to three times as likely as those with strong vision to be cognitively impaired. Read on for more.

Vision problems are more common than you think…

Vision problems affect 1 in 28 Americans over age 40, according to the Wilmer Eye Institute in Baltimore.
 
The number of people with vision problems could double by 2050, largely due to cataracts, glaucoma and macular degeneration in the United States’ ageing population.

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New study links impaired vision to a heightened risk of cognitive decline

For their study, the researchers analysed data from nearly 2,975 participants over age 60 who were part of the yearly National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey (NHANES), as well as more than 30,000 participants over age 65 in the National Health and Aging Study.
 
Both studies asked participants about their vision health, bothersome vision problems and other health issues. They also assessed cognitive impairment and dementia using specials tests. NHANES went a step further and assessed eyesight objectively with vision tests, too.
 
The researchers found that about 25% of participants in each of the studies had cognitive impairment or dementia. Most participants in NHANES had good distance vision, with only 9% unable to watch television across the room or see someone across the street. And 14% had difficulty with near vision. But 30% said they felt hampered by vision problems in their daily lives.
 
In the other study group, only 7% and 5% of participants respectively had distance vision and near vision impairment. The researchers found that having distance vision worse than 20/40 an even the perception of having bothersome vision problems was linked to an almost three-fold higher risk of cognitive impairment or dementia.
 
“Regular vision screening of older adults could help catch people at greater risk of cognitive problems and dementia,” the team wrote. Don’t turn a blind eye to vision problems!

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