Healthy lifestyle now may mean healthy eyes later

Wed Dec 15, 2010 8:37pm EST
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NEW YORK (Reuters Life!) - People who lead an overall healthy life by exercising, eating right and not smoking have a significantly lower risk for age-related macular degeneration, a major cause of visual impairment in older adults, a study said.

Exercise and diet each reduced the risk, but both combined, along with a lack of smoking, caused the risk for age-related macular degeneration (AMD) to fall by more than 70 percent, said study author Julie Mares, at the University of Wisconsin in Madison.

"We don't need to be passive victims of these ravages of old age," Mares told Reuters Health.

"Relatively small things could make a difference in whether or not we develop AMD."

Macular degeneration results in a loss of vision in the center of the visual field due to damage to the retina and can make it difficult or impossible to read or recognize faces, although enough peripheral vision can remain to allow other daily life activities.

For the study, published in Archives of Opthalmology, Mares and her colleagues reviewed information about diet, exercise and smoking from 1,313 women between the ages of 55 and 74, collected during the 1990s.

The women were revisited on average six years later, at which point they received an eye exam to check for AMD.

Among the women who ate the healthiest, 11 percent had an early form of AMD compared to 19 percent of women who had the worst diets, after factoring in elements such as their intake of fruit, vegetables, whole grains, fat and sugar.

About one in 10 women in the highest quintile of exercise developed AMD, versus one in 5 of those who barely got any exercise.   Continued...