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Vision & Eye Care Q3 2021

See the benefits of a healthy lifestyle

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David Cartwright

Chairman, Eye Health UK

To mark the start of National Eye Health Week 20- 26 September, we should be looking at our lifestyle choices if we’re serious about eye health.

Ophthalmology is now the number one reason for hospital outpatient visits in England1, whilst missed sight tests and cancelled hospital eye appointments during the pandemic will inevitably lead to a decline in the nation’s eye health.

Spending a couple of hours a day outdoors could help prevent your child becoming short-sighted.

Lifestyle counts

Regular eye tests – every two years, unless advised otherwise by your optometrist – are vital to keep eyes healthy and prevent avoidable sight loss; but what many of us don’t realise is that lifestyle can have a significant impact on eye health too.

Regardless of our genetic predisposition, diet, weight, activity levels, alcohol consumption and smoking status can all affect our chances of suffering chronic eye conditions, including the four main causes of sight loss – macular degeneration, diabetic retinopathy, glaucoma and cataracts.

Active eye care 

One recent study found being physically active can reduce the risk of visual impairment by 58% versus a sedentary lifestyle.2

Regular physical activity can lower intraocular ‘eye’ pressure (IOP) and help prevent and control conditions such as glaucoma and ocular hypertension.

Being active can also reduce the harmful overgrowth of blood vessels in the eyes which could cause and accelerate age-related macular degeneration (AMD).

Research has also shown that people who engage in regular activities such as walking and cycling cut their risk of suffering age-related cataracts by up to 10%.3

Impact of smoking on eyes 

Toxic chemicals in tobacco smoke can damage the delicate surface and internal structure of the eye. Any amount of smoking, even occasional or second-hand, can affect eye health. More than one in four (27%) cases of AMD are directly attributable to smoking.4

Food for thought

Spending a couple of hours a day outdoors could help prevent your child becoming short-sighted. There are many other ways that lifestyle can benefit eye health from maintaining a healthy Body Mass Index (BMI) to eating a diet rich in fruit, vegetables, fish and wholegrains.

For more on how to live well and see well visit the National Eye Health Week website where you’ll also find an online vision checker and sight loss simulator.

[1] NHS Digital, Hospital Episode Statistics for England. Outpatient statistics, 2019 -20.

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