As human beings, we come by our fascination for eyes naturally. After all, it’s all about the peepers from the start.
Just moments after we enter this world, we’re gazing into mom’s eyes. And our body is releasing the bonding hormone oxytocin as a result.
And when we’re older, we spend a lot of time gazing into the eyes of the one we love hoping to see our love reflected back at us.
So it’s really no wonder when we hear the centuries old proverb, “The eyes are the windows to your soul,” we still find ourselves nodding in agreement.
But it turns out it was Matthew who was really onto something. He wrote in the Bible, “The eye is the lamp of the body. If your eyes are healthy, your whole body will be full of light. But if your eyes are unhealthy, your whole body will be full of darkness.”
Because a new Johns Hopkins University study has confirmed that a deep gaze into your pretty peepers can reveal a whole lot more than if you’re in love. Researchers say it could tell us if you’re at risk for dementia or memory loss in the future.
Blood vessel damage is linked to dementia
We’ve been able to take pictures of large arteries in the brain for some time. And we know that in folks who are suffering from active cognitive decline or dementia there are typically telltale signs in those big arteries.
But the researchers wondered if there was a way to use smaller blood vessels to predict who will develop memory loss earlier. And since we can’t yet look at them in the brain, they decided to look at the next best thing, the ones in our eyes.
The tiny blood vessels in our eyes are very similar to those in our brain. And the Hopkins researchers hypothesized that looking at them might give us a clue about what was happening in the brain.
And it turns out they were right.
Retinopathy may predict dementia risk
The large, 20-year long study, involved over 12,300 volunteers ages 45 to 64. Each volunteer took memory and thinking tests at the start of the study, once again six years later and then finally 20 years after the first round of testing.
Around three years into the study, when the average age of the volunteers was 60, retinal cameras were used to take pictures of the back of folk’s eyes.
- 11,692 had no signs of damage to the retina (retinopathy)
- 365 had mild damage
- 256 had moderate to severe damage
And that’s when things got REALLY interesting.
It turns out the people who had moderate to severe damage to those small blood vessels in their eyes had significantly larger drops in their average memory and thinking test skills over the course of the study.
A comprehensive eye exam could help head off memory loss
In other words, the small blood vessel damage could be contributing to memory loss. And that visible damage to our retinas may be a predictor of our risk for cognitive decline and dementia that doesn’t become obvious until decades later.
Harm to our retinas often goes hand in hand with other health issues such as high blood pressure and diabetes. And knowing about that damage may give us the time we need to start turning things around so we can hold on to our precious memories for longer.
While the study, published in the journal Neurology, stops short of saying eye exams can help us predict cognitive decline we don’t need to wait around for more research to put this knowledge to work for us.
Retinal exams are easy and noninvasive tests that eye doctors do every day. In fact, you may even have one already scheduled or coming up in the near future. If so you can talk with your doctor about the results, and what they may say about your memory.
And if you don’t already have one on the books since most eye doctors recommend a comprehensive eye exam every one to two years you can talk to yours about having one done.
She is an advocate of self-education and is passionate about the power of group knowledge sharing, like the kind found right here on HealthierTalk.com. Alice loves to share her views on holistic and natural healing as well as her, sometimes contentious, thoughts on the profit-driven inner workings of traditional medicine.
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