[tabi] disturbing study links vision problems with dimentia

  • From: "Chip Orange" <Corange@xxxxxxxxxxxxxxx>
  • To: <tabi@xxxxxxxxxxxxx>
  • Date: Tue, 15 Jun 2010 09:08:22 -0400


Bad Vision Boosts Alzheimer's Risk

Want to give yourself a better chance of evading Alzheimer's disease?
Get your eyes

checked. New research reveals that treating vision problems can actually
reduce the

risk for dementia, including Alzheimer's disease.

Seeds for this study were planted with information from the Aging,

and Memory Study, when University of Michigan researchers noticed that
people with

dementia tended to have had fewer eye procedures prior to their
diagnoses than those

without dementia. This led the team to ask two questions...

Does poor vision contribute to the development of dementia?

Does treating visual disorders reduce the likelihood of developing

Can You See Dementia in Your Future?

Using data from Medicare and the nationally representative Health and

Study, the Michigan researchers followed 625 elderly Americans (none of
whom had

dementia at the outset) for an average of 10 years. Based on a scale
that ranked

vision from excellent (one) to totally blind (six), they found that the
risk for

dementia increased 52%, on average, with each step up the scale. Mary
A.M. Rogers,

PhD, a clinical epidemiologist and the study's lead author, told me that
the study

results suggest that the problems with declining vision preceded the
dementia. She

said that this is the first epidemiologic study, to her knowledge, that
points to

treatment of vision problems as being protective against the development
of late-life


Some of the connections between poor vision and dementia symptoms seem
obvious, while

others are not yet understood. For instance, Dr. Rogers pointed out that
people with

poor vision may be less likely to participate in the kinds of
activities, such as

reading, playing board games and engaging in physical activities, that
can be protective

against cognitive decline. She said that other research indicates that
visual loss

can lead to structural changes in the brain, but notes that more studies
are needed

to understand why.

See Your Doctor!

Good news came out of this study too. Dr. Rogers told me that when
elderly people

received appropriate treatment for their visual difficulties -- which
can include

procedures such as corneal transplant, cataract removal and lens
insertion, and treatment

for retinal detachment, lesions and other eye disorders -- their
probability of developing

dementia decreased. Even one visit to an ophthalmologist was associated
with a lower


Unfortunately, at this point Medicare coverage of vision problems is
spotty. While

only about 13% of the Medicare population has Alzheimer's disease, this
group accounts

for 34% of Medicare spending -- and, of course, Alzheimer's incidence is

not declining. Dr. Rogers believes it would be very worthwhile to
investigate whether

expanding vision screenings and treatment to more elderly Americans
would in fact

save money for Medicare. In the meantime, it is wise to visit your
doctor if you

are having any vision problems -- it may improve your health and your
life in several

important ways.


Mary A.M. Rogers, PhD, research assistant professor, department of
internal medicine,

University of Michigan, and research director of the Patient Safety
Enhancement Program,

University of Michigan Health System, Ann Arbor.

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  • » [tabi] disturbing study links vision problems with dimentia - Chip Orange