During aging, loss of vision and cognition often coincide.
In a new study, researchers from the University of Miami found that vision loss precedes loss of mental capacity.
The findings suggest that maintaining eye health could help protect cognition in older adults.
The researchers analyzed visual acuity and cognitive function data collected between 1993 and 2003 by the Salisbury Eye Evaluation (SEE) study, which enrolled 2520 older adults.
They tracked changes in participants’ scores on visual acuity (VA) and a 30-point questionnaire that tests cognitive abilities, such as memory, orientation to time and space, attention span, language capacity and calculations at several time-points.
The team found correlations not only between baseline visual acuity and cognitive test scores but also between the rate of change in the scores.
This means that people with the biggest loss in visual acuity were also likely to have the worst drop in cognitive ability.
The team believes that this phenomenon may occur because older individuals who have significant vision loss may be less likely to engage in activities that keep their mind sharp.
A potential key next step will be using more specific cognition measures and including seniors with a wide variety of cognitive abilities to see if the relationship between vision and cognition holds up.
Nevertheless, preserving vision may be key to helping older adults maintaining their mental capacity.
The study is published in JAMA Ophthalmology.
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Source: JAMA Ophthalmology.