Sunday, December 19, 2010

Keep healthy eyes in old age..

Keep healthy eyes in old age..
People who lead overall healthy lives -- getting exercise, eating right, and not smoking -- are significantly more likely to keep their aging eyes healthy, new study findings report.

Exercise and diet were each linked to a lower risk of age-related degenerative changes in the eyes, but both combined, along with a lack of smoking, caused a "particularly profound lowering" of the risk -- by more than 70 percent, study author Dr. Julie Mares of the University of Wisconsin in Madison told Reuters Health.

"We don't need to be passive victims of these ravages of old age," Mares said. "Relatively small things could make a difference in whether or not we develop AMD (age-related macular degeneration) in our lifetime."

"Eat well, move, and don't smoke," she advised.

As the population ages, the concern over AMD grows. The disease is most common among people 75 and older, a group that will triple in size over the next 40 years, Mares noted. Already, one in four people older than 65 have early signs of AMD, she said.

AMD is caused by abnormal blood vessel growth behind the retina or a breakdown of light-sensitive cells within the retina itself, both of which can lead to serious vision impairment.

There is no cure, but a U.S. government clinical trial recently found that a high-dose mix of specific antioxidants -- vitamins C and E, beta-carotene and zinc -- can slow the progression of AMD in the intermediate stages, and doctors now commonly prescribe it for such patients.

Another study published earlier this year found that older adults who eat fatty fish at least once a week may have a lower risk of serious vision loss from AMD.

But healthy habits tend to work together in achieving certain health goals, such as lowering blood pressure, Mares noted, suggesting that diet and exercise could have a synergistic impact on eye health into old age.

To investigate, she 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. Women were revisited on average six years later, at which point they received an eye exam to check for AMD.

Two hundred and two women had AMD, most of it early-stage disease.

Among the women who ate the healthiest, 11 percent had developed an early form of AMD. In contrast, the condition was present in 19 percent of women with the worst diets, factoring in their intake of fruit, vegetables, whole grains, fat and sugar, among other elements.

About one in 10 women who exercised the most developed AMD, versus one in five of those who barely got any exercise. When the researchers combined the influence of diet, exercise and no smoking, the risk of AMD decreased even further, even though smoking alone was not related to AMD.

Since previous research has linked specific dietary elements to AMD, the researchers looked at the associations of specific antioxidants with AMD risk. Women with higher levels of these antioxidants were less likely to develop AMD, but not as much as women who ate well overall, Mares noted. "The findings for overall healthy diets are much stronger than for single nutrients," she said.

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