Guest Article Helen Young,
According to the United States National Eye Institute, one of the best ways of promoting positive eye health is to keep our bodies in shape. Taking regular exercise, eating nutritious foods and using the right dietary supplements are the key ingredients in their recipe for safeguarding sight.
A recent study conducted by the University of Wisconsin-Madison showed that unhealthy lifestyles pose one of the greatest risks to eye health with poor diet, smoking, significant alcohol consumption and physical inactivity causing greatest concern. Findings from the six-year research project demonstrated that addressing these factors could help millions of people reduce their risk of developing age-related macular degeneration (AMD), a leading cause of blindness. Here we take a closer look at steps you can take to protect your peepers!
1. Vision boosting nutrients
The structure of the eye is complex and requires lots of different nutrients to keep it working at its best. Eating a diet which includes a wide range of fruits and vegetables is a great starting point for getting this combination right. Fish, particularly oily varieties, are also a good source of eye savvy sustenance.
Recent studies conducted in the United States and United Kingdom have also highlighted grapes and oranges as particularly critical to positive eye health. The US study, based in the University of Miami, found that grapes, which are rich in antioxidants, helped protect the retina from the effects of oxidative stress. The process of oxidative stress involves the release of free radicals which harm the retina and is frequently associated with retinal disease and AMD.
The British study, carried out by a team at the highly acclaimed King’s College, London, focused on the issue of cataracts. The researchers discovered that following a diet high in vitamin C could significantly cut the chances of developing cataracts. The positive impact is believed to be associated with the increase of vitamin C in the eye fluid, which helps protect the lens of the eye from oxidation- the process which makes the lens of the eye cloudy and leads to cataracts occurring. Vitamin C, found most commonly in oranges, also appeared to help decelerate the development of AMD.
2. Vision harming vices
Cutting out vices like smoking and alcohol consumption is also important in terms of eye health. The toxins associated with tobacco smoking cause real damage to the surface and structure of the eye- as well as to the rest of your body. Sight loss is much more likely within the smoking population. Smokers are twice as likely to suffer with changes in the lens of the eye (leading to cataracts) and also face a heightened risk of developing conditions such as glaucoma, optic nerve damage, inflammation and diabetic retinopathy (as smokers are also more likely to experience diabetes itself).
Alcohol is another lifestyle factor which can have a detrimental effect on your eyes. Short and long term high levels of consumption can lead to permanent sight loss caused by damage to the optic nerves. As the drinking continues, a range of organs are affected including most notably the liver. This too has a knock-on effect on the eyes, with liver blood deficiency causing problems such as blurred vision, bloodshot eyes and the tell tale yellowing of the eyes.
3. Eye health enhancing exercise
The final part of the lifestyle related eye health jigsaw is physical fitness. Keeping active has a double whammy effect on your eyes as it helps maintain healthy weight levels and also boosts oxygen supplies to the optic nerve. Being overweight is an issue in eye terms because it contributes to blood vessel damage in the eye. Avoiding obesity also helps protect the retina, reduce the likelihood of developing glaucoma, the incidence of cataracts and delay the onset of AMD.
The risks of vision loss associated with conditions such as high blood pressure, diabetes and arterial restriction can be dramatically cut by an active lifestyle. Participating in regular exercise even at a moderate level can make a real difference. A study carried out in Atlanta has found compelling evidence that exercise increases the levels of a growth factor called brain-derived neurotrophic factor (BDNF). This growth factor, found in our bloodstreams and brains, helps promote the wellbeing of neurons and consequently brain health. As neurons are also found in the retina, there is an associated boost in the BDNF levels found in the eyes. Although the research study focused on the effect achieved in mice, it has been argued that there is a strong correlation with the impact on the human eye.
Taking action in all these areas provides a comprehensive approach to improving eye health, enhancing your chances of a clearer vision for the future.