In 2017, the Lancet Commission, which was established to assess modifiable risk factors for dementia, released its findings. At that time, they stated those factors were high blood pressure, lower education, obesity, smoking, depression, inadequate levels of physical activity, hearing loss, and decreased social interaction.
Since that time, they added pollution, traumatic brain injury, and high levels of alcohol consumption. Now, a team of researchers is hoping the Commission will add impaired vision to their list of risk factors.
How Can Vision Impairment Reduce Cognitive Functioning?
There are a number of ways in which vision impairment can reduce cognitive functioning, including:
A decrease in concentration – if you have trouble seeing, you may find it difficult to concentrate on anything for too long. This can cause problems when it comes to taking tests and remembering information from lectures or textbooks. As we age, our patience level with our attempts to concentrate could decrease to the point of us not trying in the first place. This can lead to isolation.
A decrease in working memory – working memory is a type of short-term memory that helps us store information for use later on. If your vision is impaired, this could mean that you are unable to retain information for more than a few seconds. This inability to remember things might cause those around us to start skipping past us, not wanting to bother us with something we won’t remember anyway.
An increase in stress levels – many people who have poor vision report feeling stressed or anxious as a result of their condition, as they don’t want to make mistakes when performing tasks. This can increase heart rate and blood pressure levels, leading to further stress and anxiety. As with the other two issues, frustration becomes a huge factor as we struggle to maintain a piece of who we once were.
These issues, coupled with what researchers now believe, are just more evidence to add vision impairment to Lancet Commission efforts. Dr. Rojas, a co-author of the most recent study, explained that our neural system needs to be stimulated to continue functioning at the optimum level. When it comes to vision impairment, the frustration that comes with not being able to see might cause one to simply give up. Thus the stimulation will decrease.
What Changes Can Be Made to Increase Aid for Vision Issues?
Efforts have been made to educate people about the modifiable risks proposed by the Lancet Commission. When it comes to vision loss, there are steps that can be taken to increase our vision health as we age. For instance, the traditional Medicare system does not provide adequate coverage for vision. Just this simple step could assist thousands of people, if not more. Supporting vision health at younger ages can also help reduce the risk of cognitive decline later in life.