Older adults with vision problems may be at a higher risk of dementia, study finds

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Experts hope older consumers take their visual health more seriously

A new study published by Taylor & Francis identified a risk factor that may affect older consumers’ cognitive health. According to their findings, older adults who have untreated vision problems may be at a higher risk of developing dementia

“This study is among the first to evaluate the association between sight problems and cognitive outcomes in older adults through a comprehensive examination of all available population-based studies in English,” said researcher Beibei Xu. “Although the reasons behind this remain unclear, it suggests that diagnosing and treating eye conditions may be beneficial – both to improve a person’s quality of life and also to potentially slow down or stop memory loss.” 

How vision problems can affect cognition

For the study, the researchers analyzed data from 16 previous studies that included information on more than 76,000 participants. These studies included long-term information on the participants’ eye health and cognitive health. 

Ultimately, there was a clear link between visual health concerns and dementia. Participants with any kind of sight problem were 137% more likely to experience cognitive impairment than older adults without vision problems. These findings held up regardless of whether the participants were diagnosed with visual problems or self-reported issues with their vision. 

Additionally, the risk of developing cognitive impairment was 41% higher for participants with vision problems, and the risk of dementia was nearly 45% higher for this group. 

While the researchers remain unclear on precisely why this link exists between vision problems and cognitive impairment, they hypothesize that several factors may come into play. They explained that with poorer vision, older adults may struggle to take in information, their senses are generally more dulled, and they may have a hard time with visual perception. All of these things can impact long-term cognitive function. 

Now, the team hopes that these findings encourage older consumers to prioritize their visual health. Preventing or treating long-term eye conditions may help their cognitive function in later life. 

“Finding ways to prevent or delay the onset of dementia could help reduce its devastating impact on the lives of affected individuals and their families, especially in light of the growing burden of the disease,” said Xu. “Identifying modifiable risk factors is the first critical step for developing effective interventions to achieve this goal. 

“Our new results highlight the importance of regular eye examinations for older adults – enabling any potential problems with their vision to be spotted and treated early. They also suggest that any self-reported changes to a person’s eyesight should not be ignored.” 

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