Sight charity The Eyecare Trust has joined forces with healthcare provider Simplyhealth to warn that many lifestyle choices can pose a serious threat to eyesight. As well as alerting people to the eye health risks posed by obesity, the charity is stressing that smoking, poor diet, lack of exercise and excessive alcohol consumption can all dramatically increase the risk of sight loss or even blindness.
Smoking is a key factor in the development of age-related macular degeneration (AMD), the leading cause of blindness in the developed world, which affects 600,000 people in the UK. Smokers are twice as likely to lose their sight in later life than non-smokers and they also run a higher risk of developing cataracts, colour vision defects and sore, gritty eyes.
60 per cent of people have no idea that what they eat can affect their eye health. This is despite the fact that eating just one portion of oily fish, containing omega-3 fatty acids, each week can reduce your risk of developing AMD by over 40 per cent.
Other foods that score highly for eye health include leafy green vegetables, carrots, melons, papaya, tomatoes, red peppers, blueberries, plums red grapes and aubergines. These contain beneficial substances such as antioxidants, carotenoids and lutein. Simply eating three portions of fruit a day has been shown to reduce the risk of developing AMD by more than a third.
While a small amount of red wine can actually be beneficial for your eyes as it contains powerful antioxidants, too much alcohol will interfere with your liver, reducing the production of glutathione which prevents a particular kind of cell damage that can lead to the development of cataracts, glaucoma and retinopathy.
Regular exercise – about 30 minutes, five times a week – will not only help your general health but is an excellent way to increase the oxygen supply to the retina and optic nerve, as well as lowering the pressure that builds up in the eye. Reducing this interocular pressure can help control conditions such as glaucoma and ocular hypertension.
Raman Sankaran of healthcare provider Simplyhealth says: “Health is the most important thing of all. There are many lifestyle choices that can have an impact on eye health and everyone should think about their lifestyle and have regular eye examinations. Attending a sight test is not expensive as there are many options available to help people budget for eye care, such as a cash plan from Simplyhealth.”