New research, published in JAMA Ophthalmology on July 13, suggests a potential link between sight loss in individuals over 71 years old and dementia. The study conducted by researchers at the University of Michigan examined data from nearly 3,000 US citizens aged 71 and above, who participated in the National Health and Aging Trends Study (NHATS).
The NHATS study evaluated participants’ eyesight, including short and long-distance vision, as well as their ability to distinguish objects against various backgrounds. Additionally, the researchers gathered information on whether the participants had dementia based on NHATS data.
The findings revealed that individuals with sight loss were more likely to have dementia compared to those with no vision problems. Interestingly, up to 40% of dementia cases might be influenced by 12 risk factors, such as smoking, high blood pressure, and hearing loss, which could potentially be prevented or managed.
Although sight loss is not currently considered one of the 12 major risk factors for dementia, this new evidence points to a connection between the two. Dr. Susan Mitchell, Head of Policy at Alzheimer’s Research UK, emphasized the importance of such studies in identifying possible dementia risk factors and exploring preventive measures.
While this study provides significant evidence linking sight loss to dementia and aligns with previous research, it is not yet definitive. Future studies will be crucial in understanding the exact cause of this link, which will help determine potential prevention strategies.
Several possibilities for the association between sight loss and dementia are being considered, such as the impact of diabetes on both conditions or shared pathways in the brain leading to memory and thinking decline.
In the event that this link is confirmed, it could mean that taking measures to minimize sight problems in older age might also contribute to reducing the risk of developing dementia.
In the meantime, individuals can take action to protect their brain health by maintaining a healthy heart, engaging in new activities, and fostering social interactions. Alzheimer’s Research UK offers a “Think Brain Health check-in” that provides insights into brain health and ways to improve it. For more information, you can visit their website: https://www.alzheimersresearchuk.org/brain-health/check-in/
Source: Alzheimer’s Research UK