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Vision Care Offers Surprising Benefits for Your Balance and Your Brain

Researchers have recently discovered that regular eye care does more than help preserve our vision as we grow older. It offers out-of-the-box health benefits you might never expect.

For example, from 2001 to 2014, nearly a million people were admitted into U.S. hospitals because of eye trauma, as either a primary or secondary diagnosis. Those numbers, which grew significantly over time, were largely due to an increase in falls among older adults, resulting in fractured eye sockets, damaged tear ducts, and injured eyelids. But as scientists at the Wilmer Eye Institute, Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine, recently discovered, the falls themselves often ensued from preexisting vision problems.

The fact is, older adults often suffer with eye disease. Cataracts, glaucoma, and age-related macular degeneration are common. These conditions interfere with vision, and they can turn a simple walk across the room into a journey fraught with danger. Fortunately, with a little preventative eye care, these falls – and the damage they cause – are often avoidable.

And so, perhaps, is cognitive decline — that creeping forgetfulness we begin to experience as we age. A recent study at the Division of Neuroscience and Experimental Psychology, University of Manchester, Manchester, UK, showed that individuals who undergo cataract surgery slow their rate of cognitive decline by as much as 50% for more than a decade after their procedure.

Scientists are still working to determine how the surgery improves cognition, but the study included 2,068 adults who underwent cataract surgery and 3,636 adults with no cataracts, and the data conclusively demonstrated, over a 13-year follow-up, that cognitive decline slowed in the surgical group post-procedure to the same levels as the group with healthy eyes.

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