Embargoed until 00:01hrs 6 October 2008
Sight charity, the Eyecare Trust*, today warned how poor lifestyles are fuelling an alarming decline in the UK’s vision as official figures predict the number of people with sight loss in the UK will double by 2030 to four million**.
A report published by the Trust to mark Eye Health Week (6 – 12 October 2008) highlights how smoking, poor diets, lack of exercise, excessive alcohol consumption and obesity are all putting our sight at risk.
SMOKERS are twice (47%)*** as likely to suffer age-related macular degeneration (AMD) – the UK’s leading cause of blindness – than non-smokers.
Not only are smokers at higher risk of suffering AMD they are also likely to suffer from the condition five years earlier than a non-smoker – 69.2 years compared to 74.4 years.
Worryingly awareness of the risk of blindness from smoking, amongst Britain’s 13 million smokers, is low (9.7%) compared to lung cancer (92.2%) and heart disease (87.7%)****.
Smokers are also at increased risk of developing cataracts and can suffer impaired colour vision as nicotine begins to poison the optic nerve.
A POOR DIET also puts your sight at risk. Eye friendly nutrients found in many fruit and vegetables and fatty acids derived from fish can all help to protect your sight.
Kiwis, spinach and oranges are all good sources of Vitamin C, which is a key antioxidant, and vital for eliminating free radicals that cause eye damage. Vitamins B and E can help protect against cataracts whilst omega-3 fish oils help maintain healthy blood vessels inside the eye. Research has shown that eating just one portion of fish a week can reduce your risk of developing AMD by up to 40%*****.
Watch your WEIGHT. More than half of all British adults weigh more than their recommended weight******. This can lead to eye health problems. Damage to blood vessels in the eye caused by excess body weight has been linked to the onset of glaucoma and diabetes whilst studies in the US have shown people with a high body mass index (BMI) tend to have low macula pigment density and are therefore at greater risk of suffering AMD.
Regular EXERCISE. The eyes need oxygen to stay healthy and comfortable. Aerobic exercise can increase crucial oxygen supplies to the optic nerve and lower pressure in the eye.
Reducing intraocular ‘eye’ pressure can help control conditions such as glaucoma and ocular hypertension. Aerobic exercise can also prevent the progression of diabetes, which in severe cases can lead to diabetic retinopathy and blindness.
The Department of Health recommends doing 30 minutes exercise five days a week. Brisk walks, cycling and swimming are all excellent ways to reduce intraocular pressure.
Excess ALCOHOL. Too much alcohol can interfere with your liver functions and reduce the production of glutathione – an important anti-oxidant for the eye. Glutathione prevents a particular kind of cell damage called glycolysation, which can trigger the onset of cataract, glaucoma and diabetic retinopathy.
Iain Anderson, Chairman of the Eyecare Trust comments: “As the number of people registered blind or partially sighted continues to rise we are uncovering growing evidence that lifestyle factors play a signiﬁcant role in determining the long-term health of our eyes.”
Ian continues: “Making the right lifestyle choices from the start can help preserve your vision, however, it’s never too late to start making changes, as in some instances, vision that is already in decline can be restored by following a healthy diet, taking regular exercise and generally cutting down on the things that we know are bad for us like cigarettes and alcohol.”
The full ‘See the benefits of a healthy lifestyle’ report will be published on http:www.eyecaretrust.org.uk/healthyeyes on 6 October 2008.
For more information and advance press copies of the report please contact:
Eyecare Trust press office
Tel: 01225 423394 or email firstname.lastname@example.org
* The Eyecare Trust is a registered charity that exists to raise awareness of all aspects of ocular health and the importance of regular eyecare.
** EDM 1463, RNIB
*** Ronald Klien et al, Arch Ophthalmol. 2008;126(1): 115-121
**** Perceptions of blindness related to smoking: a hospital-based cross-sectional study, G Bidwell et al.
***** Dietary Fatty Acids and the 5-Year Incidence of Age-related Maculopathy, Brian Chua et al.
****** Economic and Social Research Council, Diet and obesity in the UK
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