How a healthy diet and exercise can help save your sight.
We all know that eating a healthy diet and engaging in regular exercise can help reduce the risk of developing chronic illnesses such as diabetes and heart disease, but did you know that diet and exercise also place a crucial role in eye health?
In this blog we will look at a few of the ways maintaining a healthy lifestyle can help potentially save your sight.
Eating a balanced diet.
We’ve all heard the old wives tale that carrots help you see better in the dark but eating a varied diet rich in fruits, vegetables, nuts and oily fish really does play an important roll in maintaining the health of your eyes. Research has shown that leafy greens, such as spinach and kale, are particularly beneficial for the eyes. This is because they contain high amounts of the antioxidant carotenoids lutein and zeaxanthin. These carotenoids play an important role in protecting the light sensitive part at the back of the eye (the retina) from oxidative damage. Damage to the blood vessels in the retina can lead to diseases such as Macular Degeneration and Diabetic Retinopathy, both of which can cause blindness if left untreated.
Research has also shown there are many eye health benefits from eating a diet rich in oily fish such as salmon, tuna and sardines. This is due to the fact that they contain high amounts of omega-3 fatty acids. It is thought that omega-3 fatty acids may have a protective effect on the eyes by preventing the build-up of plaque in the arteries or reducing inflammation in the retina. Scientists at the Centre for Eye Research Australia found that people who ate higher levels of omega-3 fatty acids were less likely to develop late-stage age-related macular degeneration than those who did not regularly eat fish or nuts. They also discovered that people who had a diet high in trans-fats (commonly found in processed ‘junk’ food) were more likely to develop the disease.
Over the last ten years, research has shown a strong link between regular exercise and reducing the risk of eye diseases like cataracts, glaucoma, diabetic retinopathy and age-related macular degeneration. While exercise may not directly affect your eyesight, it does play a key role in helping maintain a healthy body weight. Which in turn may reduce the likelihood of developing other obesity-related health issues like diabetes and high blood pressure. People with diabetes have a higher risk of blindness than those without the disease and are at slightly higher risk for developing cataracts as they age. In addition, people with diabetes are 40% more likely to develop glaucoma. If left untreated, glaucoma can lead to complete and permanent blindness.
Smoking is as bad for your eyes as it is for the rest of your body. Smoking has been directly linked to an increased risk of developing age-related macular degeneration, cataracts, and optic nerve damage, all of which can lead to significant vision loss or even blindness. Talk to your doctor about quitting smoking to improve you overall health.
Schedule regular eye health checks.
Even if you exercise and eat well, it is still important to have your eyes checked regularly. It is recommended that people with no underlying health conditions such as diabetes or heart disease see their eye health professional every 1 to 2 years. If you are diabetic it is recommended that you see your optometrist or doctor every 6 months. Regular eye checks enable your doctor to monitor any changes to your eyes and detect serious problems early. Early diagnosis and treatment is critical to preventing permanent vision loss or blindness.
If you would like to make an appointment at the Northern Eye Centre to discuss how lifestyle changes can improve your eye health please call our Melbourne clinic on (03) 9459 5133