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Lim ZW, Chee M, Soh ZD, et al. Association Between Visual Impairment and Decline in Cognitive Function in a Multiethnic Asian Population. JAMA Netw Open. 2020;3(4):e203560. doi:10.1001/jamanetworkopen.2020.3560
Was there an association between visual impairment and decline in cognitive function over a 6-year period in a multiethnic Asian population?
In this population-based cohort study of 2478 elderly Asian people, visual impairment at baseline and deterioration of vision over time were associated with decline in cognitive function over 6 years. The main causes of visual impairment among individuals with substantial cognitive decline were undercorrected refractive error and cataract, both of which are usually preventable or treatable.
Early intervention of visual impairment in elderly individuals may potentially mitigate decline in cognitive function.
With the rapidly aging population, the burden of visual impairment (VI) and cognitive decline is expected to increase. Previous cross-sectional studies suggest an association between these 2 health outcomes. However, few longitudinal reports have examined this association, and to our knowledge, no studies have been performed in Asian populations. Further investigation on this association may help to better identify individuals at risk of cognitive decline.
To examine the longitudinal association between VI and decline in cognitive function in a multiethnic Asian population.
Design, Setting, and Participants
In this longitudinal, population-based, prospective cohort study, Chinese, Indian, and Malay adults 60 years or older at baseline were recruited from the Singapore Epidemiology of Eye Diseases (SEED) study. At baseline, participants from the SEED study were recruited under 3 studies: the Singapore Malay Eye Study (SiMES; 2004-2006), the Singapore Indian Eye Study (SINDI; 2007-2009), and the Singapore Chinese Eye Study (SCES; 2009-2011). Eligible participants were reexamined after 6 years (2011-2013 for SiMES, 2013-2015 for SINDI, and 2015-2017 for SCES). Data analysis was performed from November 1 to 24, 2019.
Visual impariment was defined as presenting visual acuity worse than 20/40 based on the better-seeing eye.
Main Outcomes and Measures
Cognitive function was assessed using a locally validated Abbreviated Mental Test (AMT). The association between baseline VI and change in AMT score was determined using the multivariable linear regression model adjusting for baseline age; sex; race/ethnicity; presence of diabetes, hyperlipidemia, hypertension, and chronic kidney disease; history of cardiovascular disease; smoking status; alcohol intake; body mass index; educational status; and AMT score.
A total of 2478 individuals (1256 [50.7%] male; 1073 Chinese, 768 Indian, and 637 Malay adults) with mean (SD) age of 67.6 (5.6) years were evaluated, of whom 489 (19.7%) had reduction in AMT scores over 6 years. Baseline VI was associated with a decrease in AMT score over 6 years (β = −0.27; 95% CI, −0.37 to −0.17; P < .001). When change in vision over 6 years was evaluated, unchanged or deteriorated VI was associated with a decrease in AMT score over 6 years (β = −0.29; 95% CI, −0.40 to −0.18; P < .001). Among individuals with baseline VI and a substantial decrease in AMT score of 3 units or more over 6 years, the leading causes of VI were undercorrected refractive error (14 [45.2%]) and cataract (11 [35.5%]).
Conclusions and Relevance
In this study, poor vision was independently associated with a decline in cognitive function. Causes of visual loss in these cases were mostly preventable, further suggesting that preserving good vision may be an important interventional strategy for mitigating cognitive decline.
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