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How Vision Affects Brain Health

By Chris Brown

The ability to see is maybe our top utilized tool for interacting with our environment. However, one's vision also plays a large role in people's brainpower and the speed of their age-related cognitive decline. Regular visits to the local optometrist not only helps maintain eye health, but could also keep your brainpower in top shape.

The Link Between Bad Vision and Cognitive Decline

In a 2003-19 study of people aged 60 to 94 years old, a correlation was discovered between poor vision and cognitive decline. Participants who scored low on vision tests at the start of the study saw greater losses in language, memory, attention, and special acuity over its seven-year span. Similarly, school-aged children experienced increased test scores in reading and math after receiving corrective lenses. For school children, one may attribute this improvement to an improved ability to physically see the lesson board and receive that written information. However, a 1977 study into vision impairment's effects upon cognitive development found language skills to be significantly underdeveloped in visually impaired children. This seems to indicate a more generalized reason why vision affects cognition than simply the ability to consume a lesson.

Why Maintaining Vision Is Important for Brain Health

There are various factors identified by researchers which may cause a person's cognition to decline when they have vision loss. Firstly, people who undergo vision loss tend to reduce their physical activity and social interactions. These changes can diminish cognition by themselves. Secondly, people with vision loss require more brainpower to function with everyday tasks, as the brain must attempt to decipher the world from less-detailed, blurry information. This means that less energy can be diverted to areas of problem solving and cognition, like a computer slowing down when multiple processes run at once. While young minds are more pliable and adaptable, older brains with vision loss may not be able to handle the input changes and end up cognitively affected at a greater rate.

How to Work Around Incurable Vision Loss

In some cases, solving vision loss isn't as simple as slapping on a pair of eyeglasses. There are a number of eye diseases (such as macular degeneration and glaucoma) that can cause incurable vision loss, especially amongst older individuals. Some tricks can reduce the effects of this vision loss on patients' cognition. For example, changing the home into a more black-and-white, high-contrast environment can ease the brain's difficulty distinguishing objects. Finding similar workarounds to allow a visually impaired individual to get out in the world, interact with others, and continue brain-healthy activities (like replacing reading with audio books) is vital to further maintaining a healthy brain.

To learn more about your health, wellness and fitness, see your local chiropractor at The Joint Chiropractic in Pico Rivera, Calif.

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