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Objectively Measured Visual Impairment and Dementia Prevalence in Older Adults in the US.

JAMA Ophthalmology 2023 August 2
IMPORTANCE: Estimates of the association between visual impairment (VI) and dementia in the US population are based on self-reported survey data or measures of visual function that are at least 15 years old. Older adults are at high risk of VI and dementia so there is a need for up-to-date national estimates based on objective assessments.

OBJECTIVE: To estimate the association between VI and dementia in older US adults based on objective visual and cognitive function testing.

DESIGN, SETTING, AND PARTICIPANTS: This secondary analysis of the 2021 National Health and Aging Trends Study (NHATS), a population-based, nationally representative panel study, included 3817 respondents 71 years and older. Data were analyzed from January to March 2023.

INTERVENTION: In 2021, NHATS incorporated tablet-based tests of distance and near visual acuity and contrast sensitivity (CS) with habitual correction.

MAIN OUTCOMES AND MEASURES: VI was defined as distance visual acuity more than 0.30 logMAR, near visual acuity more than 0.30 logMAR, and CS more than 1 SD below the sample mean. Dementia was defined as scoring 1.5 SDs or more below the mean in 1 or more cognitive domains, an AD8 Dementia Screening Interview Score indicating probable dementia, or diagnosed dementia. Poisson regression estimated dementia prevalence ratios adjusted for covariates.

RESULTS: Of 2967 included participants, 1707 (weighted percentage, 55.3%) were female, and the median (IQR) age was 76.9 (77-86) years. The weighted prevalence of dementia was 12.3% (95% CI, 10.9-13.7) and increased with near VI (21.5%; 95% CI, 17.7-25.3), distance VI (mild: 19.1%; 95% CI, 13.0-25.2; moderate, severe, or blind: 32.9%; 95% CI, 24.1- 41.8), and CS impairment (25.9%; 95% CI, 20.5-31.3). Dementia prevalence was higher among participants with near VI and CS impairment than those without (near VI prevalence ratio: 1.40; 95% CI, 1.16-1.69; CS impairment prevalence ratio: 1.31; 95% CI, 1.04-1.66) and among participants with moderate to severe distance VI or blindness (prevalence ratio: 1.72; 95% CI, 1.26-2.35) after adjustment for covariates.

CONCLUSIONS AND RELEVANCE: In this survey study, all types of objectively measured VI were associated with a higher dementia prevalence. As most VI is preventable, prioritizing vision health may be important for optimizing cognitive function.

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