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Exercise & Prevention: Keys to Maintaining Healthy Vision

You know regular exercise benefits your heart, lungs, energy level, and waistline. But did you know it can also help preserve your vision?

From the minute you wake up until you go to sleep, your eyes work to bring you the world, delivering 80 percent of the information you take in every day. Fortunately, vision is the one sense you can deliberately protect and monitor.

Regular Exercise and Eye Health

Numerous studies have confirmed connections between common eye diseases, such as age-related macular degeneration (AMD), glaucoma, cataracts, and the benefits of regular exercise for reducing risk.

Maintaining eye health by staying active makes a huge difference in the quality of life—especially as we age—because visual impairment and blindness can seriously impact physical and mental health, the ability to work, and our overall quality of life.

"The good news about exercise is that you don't have to be a marathon runner to reap the benefits," according to the American Academy of Ophthalmology. "Taking a brisk walk, climbing the stairs, and dancing are all great ways to get a good work out that will help you and your eyes stay healthy."

Because one health issue can lead directly to another, John A. Moran Eye Center ophthalmologist Brian C. Stagg, MD, MS, says, "We take a holistic view of patients when it comes to assessing risk factors for eye disease.

"Vision problems can be related to a patient's overall health. High cholesterol, high blood pressure, and diabetes are examples of health conditions that can cause vision loss. In many cases, these health conditions can be prevented with a healthy diet and exercise," Stagg adds.

A Checklist to Keep Your Eyes Healthy

Along with exercise, preventive health care is your best bet for preserving vision.

In addition to staying physically active and maintaining a healthy diet, Stagg offers this checklist for maintaining your best eye health:

  • Get regular eye exams. Since early-stage diseases may lack symptoms, the earlier your doctor detects any sign of eye disease, the better. Early detection is key to treatments that can slow or prevent vision loss.
  • Wear sunglasses year-round. UV rays from the sun damage your eyes and increase the risk of cataracts. Go for full UV protection and add a hat or visor to keep UV rays from reaching your eyes through the top or side of your glasses—especially when you're on the water.
  • Don't smoke. In addition to all the adverse health effects of smoking, it significantly increases your risks of cataracts and AMD.
  • Eat a balanced diet. Emphasize colorful fruits and vegetables, especially dark leafy greens, and eat foods high in omega-3 fatty acids—such as fatty salmon.

"Physical activity not only helps prevent vision loss, it also helps you live a healthier, happier life," says Stagg. "Making exercise a habit is challenging, but worth it."