Long Life and Health
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The Connection Between Poor Vision and Dementia

Recent research claims to have found a connection between vision loss and dementia. It is uncertain which one comes first or if one causes the other. What is known is that, in seniors, they often exist together, and when vision problems occur, dementia often soon follows.

Even though seniors often develop eye problems and dementia simply because they are both age-related, the connection is strong enough that researchers continue to look into it further. The current thinking is that various kinds of vision impairment take place before the development of dementia.

Vision Problems Often Occur Before Dementia

There were three kinds of eye problems often found to be present before Alzheimer’s began to be observed. They included diabetes-related eye problems, macular degeneration, and cataracts.

Researchers estimate that 62% of dementia cases were preventable. More than 100,000 cases of dementia could have been prevented if vision problems had been corrected in the early stages. Many types of vision problems appear to result in higher percentages of dementia.

A Lack of Use Results in Atrophy

One reason for the connection between vision loss and dementia is that when something is unused it is lost. Poor vision results in fewer parts of the brain being exercised (sensory deprivation) because less data is coming into those areas.

As different parts of the brain begin to atrophy from lack of use, the individual’s health declines further because they have slowed down or stopped doing those things that engage the brain and improve the quality of life. Their social life usually becomes ignored, and they may not leave the house nearly as often because of vision problems.

Other activities that normally stimulate the brain may also stop, such as working on crossword puzzles, taking courses, or learning a new language. Frequent engagement in these activities is known to help prevent or slow dementia.

Slowing down in social life and other activities seems to promote dementia. Vision in the elderly naturally grows limited with age, but dementia can worsen the problem because it affects more than one area of the brain.

Correcting the Vision Can Help Slow or Prevent Dementia

Getting corrective lenses or cataract surgery to repair the loss of good vision appears to be the most needed method to help prevent dementia. Even when people regularly wore glasses that had not been upgraded to meet newer vision needs, they also had a higher occurrence of dementia.

You can observe when vision problems worsen by getting regular eye exams and taking corrective steps when needed. Eye exams can detect early problems and enable you to get treatment faster.

Other Steps Can Help Protect Your Vision

Besides using corrective measures on the eyes, several other steps can help dementia prevention. You can help protect your eyes with vitamins and other nourishment. Eating healthy meals will help, with limits on sugars and carbs. Controlling diabetes and high blood pressure is also important. Staying active is essential, quitting smoking, and protecting your eyes with sunglasses from direct sunlight will also help.

When early signs of dementia begin to appear in a loved one – or yourself – it is time to make a doctor’s visit. You will also need to have your vision checked. The sooner you get a diagnosis of a vision problem or dementia, the sooner treatment can begin. At present, there is no treatment available for dementia, so taking steps to prevent it is crucial, which may also increase your longevity.

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