This common problem is now linked to higher dementia risk

Deteriorating vision may serve as a precursor to dementia, according to a new study just released by Anglia Ruskin University. Researchers report older adults dealing with vision loss are significantly more likely to experience at least mild cognitive impairment as well.

“Our research shows for the first time that vision impairment increases the chances of having mild cognitive impairment. Although not everyone with mild cognitive impairment will go on to develop it, there is a likelihood of progression to dementia, which is one of the major causes of disability and dependency in the older population,” explains Dr. Lee Smith, Reader in Physical Activity and Public Health at ARU.

Sight is a gift that most of us take for granted most days, although just the thought of full-on blindness is enough to induce a shutter in many. Vision loss is a jarring experience, to say the least, and these findings suggest the brain can be adversely impacted as well.

All in all, study authors say people with both near and far vision issues are 1.7 times more likely to deal with mild cognitive impairment. These findings were reached thanks to an enormous WHO dataset encompassing more than 32,000 individuals hailing from numerous countries including Russia, India, China, and Mexico. Among that entire population sample, about 15% reported cognitive problems, and 44% were living with vision impairment. That information was originally gathered as part of the World Health Organization’s Study on Global Ageing and Adult Health (SAGE).

Similarly, even people who only experienced near vision loss were still 1.3 times more likely to develop cognition issues. However, the same didn’t hold true regarding far vision. For whatever reason, those living with far vision loss do not appear to be at a greater risk of dementia.

Dementia & Alzheimer’s are some of the biggest medical problems facing the human race, especially as older individuals continue to live longer and longer due to improvements in medical care and overall living standards. These discoveries open up a potential new avenue of stopping dementia before it even begins. Could treating vision problems also help offset cognitive decline?

“Research now needs to focus on whether intervention to improve quality of vision can reduce the risk of mild cognitive impairment, and ultimately dementia. More work needs to be done to examine any possible causation, and what the reasons might be behind it,” adds study co-author Shahina Pardhan, Director of the Vision and Eye Research Institute at ARU.

Most people associate glasses with intellect, but this study may cause some to adopt the opposite mindset. Should you assume anyone without 20/20 vision is heading toward a dementia diagnosis? Of course not. Still, these findings give us all yet another reason not to ignore any lingering vision problems. Take care of your eyes diligently, it may just give your brain a boost in the long run.

The full study can be found here, published in Aging Clinical and Experimental Research.