Light drinking and a lifestyle that includes regular exercise provide a one-two punch against age-related vision loss, new research shows.
In new findings published online in the journal Ophthalmology, researchers from the University of Wisconsin School of Medicine and Public Health reported the combination is so effective at preserving eyesight it may even help some people head off the need for glasses or contact lenses as they grow older.
"While age is usually one of the most strongly associated factors for many eye diseases that cause visual impairment, it is a factor we cannot change," noted lead researcher Ronald Klein, M.D. "Lifestyle behaviors like smoking, drinking, and physical activity, however, can be altered.
"So, it's promising, in terms of possible prevention, that these behaviors are associated with developing visual impairment over the long term. However, further research is needed to determine whether modifying these behaviors will in fact lead to a direct reduction in vision loss."
Vision loss can be caused by eye disease, trauma, or a congenital or degenerative condition that cannot be corrected with glasses or contact lenses. Over the next five years, the number of visually impaired Americans is projected to increase to at least four million — a 70 percent increase from 2000.
To help determine ways to prevent vision loss, Dr. Klein and his colleagues examined the impacts of smoking, drinking alcohol, and staying physically active on vision. They tracked medical records of nearly 5,000 adults — aged 43 to 84 years — taken between 1988 and 2013.
In that time, visual impairment developed in 5.4 percent of the population, but the results also showed:
- Physically active people, who engaged in regular activity three or more times a week, were 58 percent less likely to develop visual loss than those who were sedentary or inactive.
- Occasional drinkers, who consumed about one serving of alcohol in an average week, were nearly half as likely to have vision problems as non-drinkers.
- Heavy drinkers and smokers were more likely to experience problems with their eyesight than people who never drank heavily and never smoked.
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