The Strange Connection Between Vision Loss and Alzheimer’s

Alzheimer's disease, a severe form of dementia, affects an estimated 5.2 million Americans;1 200,000 of which are under the age of 65. According to recent data, Alzheimer's disease kills more than half a million Americans per year,2 making Alzheimer's the third leading killer in the U.S., right behind heart disease and cancer.

Since there's no conventional cure, it's really important to take prevention seriously. There are also few if any successful medical treatments available once Alzheimer's sets in. For example, memantine (sold under the brand name Namenda) is approved for moderate to severe cases of Alzheimer's, but doctors also prescribe it off-label for mild cases. Unfortunately, the drug has been found to be practically useless for mild to moderate Alzheimer's.3

Other go-to drugs for the treatment of Alzheimer's include cholinesterase inhibitor drugs such as Aricept, Exelon and Reminyl. These too may do more harm than good as they provoke slower heart rates, significantly increasing your chances of getting a permanent pacemaker. They also raise your risk of hip fracture.

Surprising Link Between Vision Loss and Alzheimer's

Interestingly, recent research4 shows loss of vision is associated with a higher risk for certain subtypes of Alzheimer's. As reported by Reuters:5

"Based on data from two large studies of older Americans … [t]he research team found that having distance vision worse than 20/40 and even the perception of having bothersome vision problems were associated with almost threefold higher odds of cognitive impairment.

Near-vision problems were less associated with higher odds of dementia or cognitive impairment … Regular vision screening of older Americans could help to catch people at greater risk of cognitive problems and dementia, the study team writes …"

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