Have you checked that your eye tests are all up to date? Well, according to a new study published in the Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA) Ophthalmology, it’s more important than ever that you make sure you’re attending every appointment you’re due.
Why? The new study has revealed a link between sight loss in people over 71 years old may be linked to dementia.
In the study, researchers at the University of Michigan in the US analysed data from nearly 3,000 US citizens over 71 years old, who were part of a larger study, the National Health and Aging Trends Study (NHATS).
Participants’ eyesight was tested and they had their scores recorded for short-distance vision, long-distance vision and how well they were able to distinguish objects against different backgrounds.
Researchers found that participants with sight loss were more likely to have dementia, compared to those who had no problems with their vision.
Up to 40% of dementia cases could be influenced by 12 risk factors which we may be able to prevent or influence, such as smoking, high blood pressure and hearing loss – however, sight loss is not currently one of these 12 important risk factors.
However, Dr Susan Mitchell, Head of Policy at Alzheimer’s Research UK, says that the new evidence isn’t definitive.
“It will be important for future studies to find out precisely what is causing this apparent link, as this will determine what, if any, potential there is for prevention,” she explains.
“There are several possibilities – for example, diabetes is a key risk factor for dementia, and this condition can also cause vision problems. Or it might be that there are shared pathways in the brain that cause both vision loss and a decline in memory and thinking abilities.”
According to the expert, as some cases of sight loss are preventable, if this link between sight loss and dementia is confirmed, this could mean people who take steps to minimise sight problems as they get older could also help reduce their risk of conditions like dementia.
Dr Mitchell adds: “In the meantime, we can all take action to protect our brain health, from keeping our hearts healthy to enjoying new activities and social interactions.
“If you want to know more about how your own lifestyle checks out in terms of keeping your brain healthy, you can take Alzheimer’s Research UK’s ‘Think Brain Health check-in’.”