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This Makes You 30% Less Likely to Develop Dementia, Says New Study

This one procedure might make you significantly less likely to develop dementia.
FACT CHECKED BY Alek Korab

Dementia is a debilitating disease that is increasingly common. In the U.S., cases are expected to double by the year 2050. It's the result of the population simply getting older, which is the primary risk factor for dementia. But there are things you can do to reduce that risk, and a new study has found that having one procedure might make you 30 percent less likely to develop dementia. Read on to find out more—and to ensure your health and the health of others, don't miss these Sure Signs You've Already Had COVID.

1

What Is Dementia?

Comforting Senior Husband Suffering With Dementia
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Dementia is an umbrella term for a group of brain disorders that involve changes to memory, thinking, personality, and judgment. Dementia is progressive—there is currently no cure, although in some cases its progression can be slowed—and it ultimately interferes with a person's ability to function and live an independent life. Alzheimer's disease is the most common form of dementia, affecting about 6.2 million Americans. 

2

This Makes You 30 Percent Less Likely to Develop Dementia

Doctor doing an eye exam on his patient.
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According to a new study published in the journal JAMA Internal Medicine, older people who have cataracts removed are nearly 30 percent less likely to develop dementia, including Alzheimer's, than people with cataracts who don't get the surgery.

A cataract is a cloudy area that develops when proteins build up in the lens of the eye, impeding vision. During cataract surgery, the diseased lens is removed and replaced with an artificial one.

In formulating their conclusions, researchers looked at more than 3,000 people age 65 and older who were dementia-free when the study started. They were followed for about a decade after they chose to get the surgery or not.

The scientists pointed out that vision problems have previously been identified as a risk factor for dementia.

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3

How Can Vision Trouble Contribute to Dementia?

Close up of female hand pointing at eye chart with Latin letters during eyesight test in ophthalmology clinic
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Several previous studies have found that vision impairment is associated with an increased risk of dementia. Researchers believe that's because a person who has trouble seeing is less likely to keep the mind active by reading, watching movies and TV, playing games, and socializing with other people. 

But restoring vision via cataract surgery might help delay or prevent the onset of dementia, the scientists said. "Given the substantial degree by which cataract extraction is associated with lower risk of dementia and its persistent effect beyond 10 years, the improvement in quality of life for the affected individuals and their family is likely considerable," they wrote.

(The researchers found no difference in dementia risk among people who did or didn't have surgery for glaucoma, which doesn't restore vision. Glaucoma attacks the optic nerve, while a cataract involves the eye lens.)

RELATED: Signs You've Developed Diabetes Without Knowing It

4

Finding Supports Previous Research

sad senior listening, old man hearing concept of deafness or hard of hearing
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Previous studies have found there's a strong association between vision problems and dementia. One study published last year in the journal Scientific Reports analyzed health data from more than 6 million people and found that people with severe visual impairments have a higher risk of dementia, Alzheimer's disease and vascular dementia  after adjusting for other negative health factors, and that risk of dementia "increased significantly" as vision worsened.

And a study published last year found that older adults who start losing both vision and hearing are twice as likely to develop dementia as people with only one or neither impairment. 

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5

Other Symptoms of Dementia

Moody aged man feeling unhappy.
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Common signs of dementia include:

  • Forgetting recently learned information or important events
  • Challenges in planning or solving problems
  • Difficulty completing familiar tasks 
  • Confusion about time or place
  • New problems with words in speaking or writing
  • Problems with balance or coordination
  • Changes in mood or personality

And to get through this pandemic at your healthiest, don't miss these 35 Places You're Most Likely to Catch COVID.

Michael Martin
Michael Martin is a New York City-based writer and editor whose health and lifestyle content has also been published on Beachbody and Openfit. A contributing writer for Eat This, Not That!, he has also been published in New York, Architectural Digest, Interview, and many others. Read more