(BPT) - Regular eye exams have always been an important part of maintaining healthy vision, but it turns out they can help keep your brain healthy, too. New research is revealing just how connected eye health and brain health are, and how receiving regular eye treatment might mean the difference between a healthy brain and cognitive decline.
That’s according to the authors of a study published in the Journal of the American Medical Association Ophthalmology this summer. Researchers examined 2,520 adults age 65 and older over the course a decade and found a link between failing vision and mental decline. The exact nature of the relationship still needs to be better understood, but one thing is clear: Research shows that taking care of your vision is extremely important for maintaining good cognitive function.
The reasons behind the connection might be that declining vision discourages people from activities like reading and crossword puzzles that challenge the brain and keep it active. But whatever the root cause, the key takeaway stands out: older adults should get regular eye checkups and undergo treatment right away for any issues.
The good news is that maintaining eye health is well within most people’s grasp.
Two of the most common age-related vision problems — cataracts and age-related macular degeneration (AMD) — have common treatments available that can help keep vision crisp, and potentially help reduce the risk of associated mental decline. Even the relatively simple act of keeping eyeglass prescriptions current can help, the research suggests.
The Mayo Clinic recommends that people 55 to 64 see their eye doctor every one to three years, and those 65 and older go once every year to two years. People who wear glasses or contacts, or have either a family history of eye disease or a chronic disease that puts them at greater risk, meanwhile, should schedule more frequent exams.
For some older and visually impaired people, however, it can be hard to get to appointments for exams or treatment. Transportation can be a major hurdle. A recent study by the Angiogenesis Foundation, for example, found that for 41 percent of people living with wet AMD, getting to and from appointments is their biggest challenge with making regular eye doctor appointments.
Thankfully, there is help for those who no longer drive: Rides in Sight, a senior transportation information and referral service operated by ITNAmerica and sponsored by Regeneron, has the nation’s largest database of every possible kind of senior transportation option available. Accessible via a toll-free telephone hotline (1-855-607-4337) or their website (ridesinsight.org), Rides in Sight helps seniors and visually impaired adults get the rides they need to ensure healthy eyes every day. Rides in Sight customer service representatives are ready to take your call at 1-855-607-4337 from 8 a.m. to 8 p.m. EST Monday through Friday.
Don’t put off treatment for age-related macular degeneration, cataracts or other eye conditions. Your vision — and your brain health — matter.