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How Declining Eye Health Impacts Your Brain – Neurologist

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As we age, some of the bodily functions we once took for granted become a little less reliable. It might be more difficult to hear, remember certain things, or just to bend down. Vision is not exempt from this degenerative process, which means it can become increasingly difficult for some people to see well as they age and a growing body of research shows that this age-related deterioration in vision correlates to a decline in cognitive function, too. In other words – There is an eye-brain health connection—and potential eye-brain connection problems as a result.

Research - Vision & cognition

A recent study published in JAMA Network Open, for example, followed individuals aged 60 to 94 whose vision and cognition were tested every one to four years for a span of approximately seven years. Researchers concluded that those whose vision scored poorly initially were more likely to experience problems with memory, attention, and other cognitive functions over time. To be clear, if you’re born with a visual impairment or developed one earlier in life, your brain is able to adapt due to a phenomenon known as neuroplasticity (is the “brain’s ability to adapt, create, and regenerate in response to life’s events,” ), which is a type of flexibility that allows for growth and change, says neurologist Faye Begeti, MD, PhD. But neuroplasticity declines with age,

The Correlation Between Vision Loss and Decline in Cognitive Function

While the exact cause-and-effect relationship is still being investigated, Dr. Begeti says there are a few reasons for the correlation between the eyes and brain (and between vision loss and a decline in cognitive function). “Conditions such as diabetes and high blood pressure affect blood vessels to both the brain and eyes, leading to cognitive impairment and visual loss concurrently,” she says. In other words, the same health issues that damage vision also damage cognition, so it makes sense that both would occur in the same individuals.

Degenerative Cognitive Diseases

The eye-brain connection is strong and, as such, can heavily impact one another. According to Dr. Perlmutter, degenerative cognitive diseases, such as Alzheimer’s, are classified as inflammatory diseases, meaning they are caused, in part, by inflammation in the brain. “So anything in the long run that can allow inflammation to smolder [e.g. poor diet, lack of exercise, and other lifestyle choices] will cause a decline in vision and will similarly affect the brain,” he says.

How To Manage and Prevent Brain-Eye Connection Problems

First and foremost, if you notice that your vision is declining, it is imperative to schedule an appointment with your doctor(s) or health care practitioner. Many of the causes of brain eye connection problems are reversible, and getting your visual health checked can uncover problems that lead to both visual, as well as brain decline (e.g. diabetes, hypertension)

Worry about the possibility of degeneration. After all, it’s important to note that this is not the sealed fate of every elderly person. We insist that making healthy lifestyle choices throughout your life can significantly reduce your risk for the issues that cause vision loss (and potential cognitive degeneration)

Another thing you can do? Be social! “Much of our brain is devoted to social processing – interpreting the behaviour of others, or mentalisation, conversing, and emotional attunement. Staying social keeps our brains active, which keeps it healthy. After all brains are kept healthy with use, just like the other excitable tissue we are familiar with. “Use it or lose it.”

In summary

While it is true that the same mechanisms that damage vision impact cognition, it is within your control to avoid both forms of deterioration. “Our lifestyle choices have a huge role to play in whether we’re going to be intact cognitively when we’re 85,”

You have got to –

  • exercise
  • you have got to have nutritious food—( plant-based, higher fibre)
  • got to do all of the other things to reduce inflammation in your body like –
    • getting enough sleep
    • reducing stress
    • getting out in nature.

“All these things work.”


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