Exercise and AMD – how getting active can help you prevent vision loss

Sight loss affects 1 in 30 UK citizens, with age-related macular degeneration (AMD) as the leading cause.

exercise to beat depressionResearch has shown that several factors can increase a person’s risk of developing AMD, for which there is no cure. Some factors, like genetics, age, and gender, cannot be controlled but there are ways to help reduce the chances of getting this sight-threatening disease.

Current studies have shown that lifestyle factors play a large part in preventing AMD – particularly diet, smoking, UV exposure, and physical activity. These influences can be controlled, and by monitoring your lifestyle you are able to decrease the risk of losing your sight.

Why exercise is essential for healthy eyes

A 2006 study proved a strong correlation between exercise and AMD, and this remains to be a strong belief in the ophthalmic community today.

The research followed nearly 4,000 men and women, ages ranging from 43 to 86, over the course of fifteen years. Participants recorded their exercise habits and received detailed eye examinations every five years.

After considering other risk factors for AMD, including weight and cholesterol levels, researchers found those who maintained an active lifestyle* were 70% less likely to develop wet AMD than those who did not.

In addition to these results it was also discovered that those who led an active lifestyle were ‘biologically’ younger than those who remained sedentary. This reduced the risk further as AMD is a disease related to aging.

*The participants who were considered to maintain an active lifestyle walked a minimum of 2 miles a day, 3 times weekly (or the equivalent).

JoggingEnsuring that you exercise

Adding a regular exercise routine into your day can be difficult, especially if you already lead a busy life. There are, however, a few tricks which can help you add activity into your day-to-day routine, and even make it fun!

  • Walk to work – if you must drive try parking a little further away from the office.
  • Exercise in the morning – it’s the time you’re least likely to be interrupted.
  • Get friends involved – switch from meeting for lunch to meeting for a swim.
  • Take a class – support is a key factor in sticking to a fitness regime.
  • Add fitness to the working day – take a stroll in the park whilst enjoying your lunch break.
  • Set yourself goals – they’ll keep you motivated as long as they’re realistic.
  • Do it for charity – encourage yourself by doing something to help somebody else.

Change 4 Life is a campaign from the NHS to encourage people in England and Wales to lead healthier lifestyles. Thier website contains plenty information on incoporating more exercise into your day, as well as advice on eating and drinking habits.

Get screened regularly

By having regular eye examinations you can ensure that your eyesight is at its optimum and not endangered in any way. It is recommended that you do this once a year at a minimum to be certain that conditions like AMD will not cause problems in the future.

Visiting an optometrist with an MPS II macular pigment screener in their practice is the best way to discover whether you are at risk of losing your eyesight to AMD. The MPS II is extremely quick and extremely accurate, spotting any irregularities in the macula within 90 seconds. This efficient test will allow your eye-care expert to offer you the right advice, and prescribe any medications you may need, within the same appointment – leaving you more time to enjoy a little exercise!

Other information

Change 4 lifeFor more about the MPS II macular pigment screener visit the ophthalmics pages on the Elektron Healthcare website.

If you’d like to learn more about adding exercise to your day please visit the Change 4 Life website.

To learn more about AMD, and other sight-threatening conditions, see the RNIB’s ‘Spot the Signs‘ campaign.

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