Cataract Surgery May Lower Dementia Risk

Researchers have long understood the connection between untreated hearing loss and an increased risk of older adults experiencing cognitive decline, but a new study also found that seniors who underwent cataract surgery to improve vision had nearly a 30 percent lower risk of developing dementia. 

According to a recent Science News report, a study from the University of Washington School of Medicine of more than 3,000 participants found that subjects who received cataract surgery had a significantly lower risk of dementia and Alzheimer’s disease – and the lowered risk persisted for at least a decade after surgery. 

Research suggests that cataract surgery helps to lessen the risk for developing dementia among older adults by improving sensory input to the brain, an important factor in maintaining brain health.   Lead researcher Dr. Cecilia S Lee also theorizes that following cataract surgery, patients are getting more blue light.  Certain cells in the retina that are linked with cognition and help to regulate sleep cycles respond well to blue light.  Because cataracts block blue light, surgery could help to reactivate these cells. 

The study results also may lead to more research into the association between other diseases of the eye and the eye-brain connection in dementia.  In previous studies, age-related macular degeneration was also linked with an increased risk of developing Alzheimer’s disease and dementia.  Further study is hoped to lead to a greater understanding of the eye-brain connection and potential treatments to slow or prevent age-related dementias. 

In addition to staying physically active, eating a healthy diet, controlling blood pressure, blood sugar, and body weight, staying socially engaged is an important part of helping to reduce the risk for developing dementia in older age.  By treating hearing loss, and vision problems, seniors can participate more fully in conversations, remain independent, and stay cognitively engaged to help protect brain health.  

For more ideas to help reduce the risk for cognitive decline, follow this link to the Alzheimer’s Association website.