Natural ways to prevent visual impairment, cognitive dysfunction

Cognitive decline leaves one in four individuals over the age of 65 with increasing memory loss and various levels of functional impairment. A recently published study from the Archives of Ophthalmology (Volume 130, page 895) adds a new dimension: Older people with visual impairment, particularly those with cataracts or moderate to severe diabetic retinopathy, are more likely to experience cognitive dysfunction.

The research analyzed 1,179 patients, ages 60 to 80, who participated in the Singapore Malay Eye Study. While other studies have linked reduced visual acuity to poor cognitive function, this population-based trial was one of the first to investigate specific vision-threatening eye diseases that may be associated with cognitive impairment.

The researchers were unable to uncover any data showing a relationship between glaucoma or age-related macular degeneration (AMD) and cognitive dysfunction. That was not the case, however, with visual impairment due to cataract and moderate to severe diabetic retinopathy, both of which were found to be strong indicators of cognitive deficiencies.

If anything, these findings underscore the need to effectively diagnose and treat the causes of visual impairment. Researchers have revealed that eating iron-rich foods such as steak, spinach, nuts and liver can help ward off dementia. The University of California San Francisco made an important connection between anaemia and dementia in a recent study.

People with anaemia, which is where the level of red blood cells are lower than normal, were more likely to develop brain degenerative conditions such as Alzheimer’s. The condition has also been linked in studies to an increased risk of early death, said lead researcher, Kristine Yaffe. Anaemia is common in the elderly and occurs in up to 23 per cent of adults aged 65 and older.The study looked at more than 2,500 people aged between 70 and 79. Dr Yaffe thinks the rationale behind the findings, is that anaemia may play a role in dementia by reducing oxygen supplies to the brain, which can damage neurons and have been shown to reduce memory and thinking abilities.

It was previously thought that high iron levels in the blood were bad for people with Alzheimer’s and leads to the production of free radicals that can damage neurons in your brain. The best way to reduce your risk of dementia is to lead a healthy lifestyle, according to experts. Enjoy a balanced diet rich in fruit and vegetables, oily fish and take regular exercise, but, do not smoke.

Foods that nourish brain
Walnuts (and almonds, pecans, hazelnuts) – filled with Omega-3 fatty acids

Salmon (and mackerel, sardines, other fatty fish) – fatty fish like salmon can lower blood levels of beta-amyloid, a protein thought to play a role in Alzheimer’s

Berries – these contain polyphenols, a type of antioxidant which helps stop inflammation and allows brain cells to work better.

Turmeric – studies have shown that turmeric, the spice used in curries, and its main active component curcumin, can help prevent Alzheimer’s.

This story was published in Newswatch Times on August 29, 2015.


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