We know that 30 minutes of exercise per day has enormous benefits on our heart, waistline, energy and stress levels. But did you know regular exercise helps with eye health?
Many eye diseases are linked to other health problems, including high blood pressure, diabetes and high cholesterol levels. January brings awareness to glaucoma, a group of eye diseases that affect more than 3 million people in the United States. (3)
Let’s get right into learning about the disease and how exercise can help limit these problems or make less of an impact.
What is Glaucoma?
Glaucoma is a group of diseases that damage the eye’s optic nerve and can result in vision loss and blindness. Two risk factors for optic nerve damage are eye pressure and blood pressure. In the front of the eye is a space called the anterior chamber. A clear fluid flows continuously in and out of the chamber and nourishes nearby tissues. The fluid leaves the chamber at the open angle where the cornea and iris meet. When the fluid reaches the angle, it flows through a spongy mesh-work, like a drain, and leaves the eye. (1) In glaucoma, even though the drainage angle is “open”, the fluid passes too slowly or does not flow out of the eye properly. The fluid builds up and the pressure inside the eye rises to a level that may damage the optic nerve.
Glaucoma is a leading cause of blindness and there may not be any symptoms to warn you. Anyone can develop glaucoma especially:
- African Americans over age 40
- Everyone over age 60, especially Mexican Americans
- People with a family history of glaucoma
Regular eye exams are the best form of prevention against glaucoma. If diagnosed with the disease, treatment comes in the form of medication or a surgical procedure.
What do we know about exercise helping to lower our chances of developing glaucoma?
Studies have been done to show that people who engaged in moderate physical exercise were 25 percent less likely to develop glaucoma than people who were largely inactive. (2)
- Positive impact on other glaucoma risk factors including diabetes, high blood pressure and high cholesterol
- Lowers intraocular pressure
- Helps to increase blood flow to the retina and optic nerve (2)
The Exercise Connection
There is definitely an association between a sedentary lifestyle and factors which increase glaucoma risk. A regular program of moderate exercise will improve your overall health. This includes brisk walking, running, dancing and resistance training. It is important to develop the habit of continuous exercise- if you stop exercising, your intraocular pressure will return to previous levels. In addition to exercise, eat a healthy, balanced diet. Dark, leafy greens such as spinach, kale, and collard greens are especially good for eye health. Eye health benefits also come from eating fish that are high in omega-3 fatty acids, such as salmon, tuna, and halibut.
Make eye exams part of your routine, stay active and eat healthy- your eyes will thank you! Contact us to help you with your healthy lifestyle.
- “Facts about Glaucoma”. Accessed 5, December 2016. National Eye Institute. https://nei.nih.gov/health/glaucoma/glaucoma_facts
- “Exercise for Eyes and Vision”. Accessed 5, December 2016. American Academy of Ophthalmology. https://www.aao.org/eye-health/tips-prevention/exercise-eyes-vision-4
- “Prevalence of Open-Angle Glaucoma Among Adults in the United States”. Accessed 7, December 2016. The Eye Diseases Prevalence Research Group, Arch Ophthalmol. 2004; Prevent Blindness America. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2798086/
- Image courtesy of iosphere at FreeDigitalPhotos.net