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Retinal blood vessels may be linked to Alzheimer's disease

06/07/2013

New research shows a possible link between the size of individuals' retinal blood vessels and their chances of developing dementia. 

Scientists at Duke University became curious about the correlation between low IQ testing early in life and a high risk for poor health and a shorter lifespan when it became apparent that lifestyle wasn't the driving factor.  They sought to examine the relationship between the health of brains and intelligence, specifically the ability of oxygen and nutrients to travel to the brain. 

The researchers found that a low IQ score at 38 years old was correlated with having wider retinal venules. Evidence of general cognitive deficits could be seen in the subjects who had the larger vessels, including lower scores on neuropsychological functioning tests. 

Data from the tests showed that those with the wider retinal venules also had lower IQs in their childhoods. 

"Increasing knowledge about retinal vessels may enable scientists to develop better diagnosis and treatments to increase the levels of oxygen into the brain and by that, to prevent age-related worsening of cognitive abilities," notes the study. 

Alzheimer's disease patients or those predisposed for dementia later in life may benefit from this research.