March 16, 2012

Eye Health Linked to Brain Health?

(Ivanhoe Newswire) — Look into your brain! A new study reveals people with mild vascular disease are more likely to have problems with memory skills and thinking.

Damage to the retina is called retinopathy. Researchers found people with mild vascular disease with retinopathy are more likely to have problems with thinking and memory skills because they may also have vascular disease in the brain. In the study, the damage was mild enough to not cause significant symptoms.

The study involved 511 women with an average age of 69. The women were tested on their memory and thinking skills every year for up to 10 years, with their eye health being tested four years into the study and scans of their brans taken about eight years into the study.

About 7.6 percent of approximately 39 women had retinopathy and had lower scores on the cognitive tests than women who did not have retinopathy. With 47 percent larger volumes of areas with damage, the women with retinopathy had more areas of small vascular damage within the brain than women who did not have retinopathy. Also in the parietal lobe of the brain, a 68 percent larger volume of damage was prevalent in women with retinopathy. The results were the same even after adjusting for high blood pressure and diabetes (a factor in vascular issues in the eye and brain).

"Problems with the tiny blood vessels in the eye may be a sign that there are also problems with the blood vessels in the brain that can lead to cognitive problems. This could be very useful if a simple eye screening could give us an early indication that people might be at risk of problems with their brain health and functioning," Dr. Mary Haan of the University of California, San Fransisco and lead study author was quoted as saying.

SOURCE: Neurology, March 2012