There is very little sadder than watching a parent, grandparent or loved one suffer from an age-related cognitive disease. A recent study published in the Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA) followed 2,520 people between the ages of 65 and 84 who were given cognitive tests every year for 8 years. The researchers found that seniors who had worse vision at the start of the study tended to show signs of worsening cognitive decline.

According to doctoral student, Diane Zheng of the University of Miami, the lead author of the study, seniors with poor vision tend to drop brain-boosting hobbies such as reading, puzzles, and games that help stimulate the brain. They also tend to spend less time with other seniors who have healthier vision.

Of 2520 individuals, the mean (SD) age was 73.5 (5.1) years, 1458 (58%) were women, and 666 (26%) were black. There were 2240 (89%), 1504 (61%), and 1250 (50%) participants in the second, third, and fourth round of study, respectively, with more than half of the loss being due to death. Both VA and MMSE score worsened over time.

The team of scientists also discovered that while worsening vision appeared to affect cognition, the influence of declining cognition on vision wasn’t as strong.

Seniors who suffer from untreated cataracts, age-related macular degeneration, diabetic retinopathy, glaucoma, or other age-related eye conditions are the most at risk. Most of these conditions can be treated and managed with proper and regular eye exams and treatments and could be an important interventional strategy for mitigating age-related cognitive declines.