How Declining Eye Health Affects Your Brain

Studies show that age-related vision problems can indicate decreasing brain health.

As you age, it can become more and more difficult to do the things that you used to do so easily before. Vision is also an important factor in that. As you grow old, your vision starts to deteriorate. A new study shows that this age-related loss of vision can be related to decreasing brain health.

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, which is a type of flexibility that allows for growth and change. But neuroplasticity declines with age, she adds, which is why later-onset vision loss can lead to cognitive decline.

Neuroplasticity is the brain’s ability to adapt, create, and regenerate in response to life’s events. During the period when you transform from an embryo to a newborn your brain undergoes massive neuroplasticity. After getting born, neuroplasticity happens as you learn. Learning doesn’t only incorporate memorizing fun facts, though. On the extreme side of the spectrum, recovering from a stroke, brain tumor surgery, or spinal cord injury and eventually regaining neurological function are all excellent examples of the marvels of neuroplasticity.

The key to maintaining neuroplasticity is to keep your brain active. Neuroplasticity is induced by neural activity—brain cells firing. When a firing brain cell is able to induce the firing of other brain cells in a circuit, that circuit tends to become stronger.

Conditions such as diabetes and high blood pressure affect blood vessels in both the brain and eyes, leading to cognitive impairment and visual loss concurrently. So treating high blood pressure, keeping blood sugars in a healthy range, and adopting an anti-inflammatory diet are all means of preventing and mitigating both cognitive and vision decline.

The eye-brain connection is strong and, as such, can heavily impact one another. So, anything in the long run that can allow the 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.

Thankfully, there are ways to strengthen and cater to the eyes and brain. And doing so will help to avoid brain eye connection problems. So consult your doctor in case you have a declining vision and lead a healthier lifestyle.

 -Staff Reporter

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