January 19, 2019
Eye Health for Bone and Brain Health

Eye Health for Bone and Brain Health

by Wellness Letter  

Two studies published in late 2018 highlighted how eye health can affect other aspects of health.

Cataracts and bone health

People with cataracts are at increased risk for osteoporosis and fractures compared to those with healthy eyes, but cataract surgery may counter this excess risk, according to a Taiwanese study in the Journal of the American Geriatrics Society. The study included 116,000 older adults, half with cataracts, half without, who were followed for six years; about 40 percent of participants with cataracts had surgery to remove them.

Compared to people without cataracts, those with untreated cataracts were twice as likely to develop osteoporosis, 30 percent more likely to have a hip fracture, and 60 percent more likely to have a vertebral or other fracture. People who had cataract surgery did not have elevated rates of osteoporosisor fractures. The researchers controlled the data for age, overall health, medications, health care use, and demographics.The visual impairment caused by cataracts may lead to osteoporosis and falls by limiting physical activity and reducing mobility and postural stability, the researchers suggested.

Visual impairment and cogntive decline

Older people with visual impairment have an elevated risk of cognitive decline, according to a U.S. study in JAMA Ophthalmology. Researchers tracked 2,520 people (ages 65 to 84) for eight years and assessed their vision and cognitive function four times. They found that not only were baseline visual acuity and cognitive scores related, but so were changes in the scores, suggesting that people with the greatest loss in vision were also likely to have the biggest drop in cognition.

The researchers hypothesized that “poor vision reduces older adults’ ability to participate in activities that help to maintain their well-being and leads to a decrease in brain stimulation that could become a risk factor for cognitive function decline.” Thus, preventing major eye disorders and treating correctable visual impairment (for instance, with glasses or surgery) are likely to be important strategies for mitigating age-related cognitive declines, they concluded.

This article first appeared in the UC Berkeley Wellness Letter.

Also seeA New, AdjustableCataract Lens.