Prevent Cataracts and Age-Related Macular Degeneration – Exercise and Other Tips

Jun 14, 2009 by

Prevent Cataracts and Age-Related Macular Degeneration – Exercise and Other Tips

In one’s latter years, degeneration of eye health is almost taken to be a given. But there are simple and important steps we can take to protect the health of our eyes, and a few of them are discussed in the following article.

Indeed, research shows that vigorous exercise – yes, exercise! – could give eye health a boost, too. Now, that’s a link that perhaps many of us would not draw.

Vigorous Exercise Protects Against Cataracts and Age-Related Macular Degeneration

by Reuben Chow

More and more people are suffering from eye-related health problems. What can individuals do to lower their risk? In this regard, two recent studies conducted by the United States Department of Energy’s Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory have given us some good news, revealing that vigorous exercise could lower the risk of cataracts as well as age-related macular degeneration.

Details and Findings of Studies

The studies, published in Investigative Ophthalmology and Visual Science, had looked at about 41,000 runners for a period of over 7 years. They used data from the National Runners’ Health Study, a project which began in 1991 to ascertain the beneficial effects of running. About 29,000 men and 12,000 women were followed, and, at the end of the study, 733 of the male runners reported a cataract diagnosis; the number of women who reported having the condition was not significant enough for analysis.

The researchers found that males who ran more than 5.7 miles each day had a 35% reduced risk of developing cataracts, as compared to men who hit the road less than 1.4 miles each day. Using the men’s performances in 10-kilometer races, which provide a good measure of overall fitness, it was also found that the fittest guys had only 50% the cataract risk of those who were the least fit. With cataracts affecting more than half of Americans aged over 65 and also being the number one cause of blindness, this is certainly interesting information for running enthusiasts and those hoping to fend off the disease.

Another study looked at the link between running and aged-related macular degeneration. From the 152 men and women who reported a diagnosis of this condition, those who ran between 1.2 and 2.4 miles each day experienced a 19% reduced risk, as compared to those who covered less than 1.2 miles each day. The corresponding decrease in risk for those whose daily mileage was over 2.4 miles was between 42% and 54%. Again, with age-related macular degeneration being the number one cause of irreversible vision loss in older white Americans, this is another piece of interesting and useful information.

“In addition to obtaining regular eye exams, people can take a more active role in preserving their vision. The studies suggest that people can perhaps lessen their risk for these diseases by taking part in a fitness regimen that includes vigorous exercise. These findings are compelling because of the large size of the study, and the fact that we are looking at something that is fairly well defined: vigorous exercise, as opposed to more moderate exercise,” said Paul Williams, an epidemiologist at the laboratory’s Life Sciences Division and part of the study team.

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