Can Exercise Help Prevent Cataracts?

shutterstock_77921152Exercise is great for your figure, mood, energy level and cardiovascular health. But what about your eye health? Can regular physical exercise stave off the development of eye conditions like cataracts? Dr. Gary Foster, a trusted ophthalmologist in Colorado, has the answer here.

Cataracts and Exercise

First, it is important to understand the mechanics of cataracts. A young, healthy lens is clear and allows light to pass through and focus on the retina. However, with advancing age, proteins can start to clump together on the lens, causing it to become cloudy or opaque. This is what is known as a cataract. Cataracts can impair eyesight and, in the worse scenario, cause blindness. The only treatment for cataracts is to surgically remove the lens and replace it with an artificial lens implant.

Though limited, there is evidence to suggest that exercise helps protect against cataracts. The most plausible explanation is that exercise increases high density lipoproteins, also known as HDLs or “good cholesterol.” These particles have been shown to have anti-inflammatory and anti-oxidative effects, which may help counteract the inflammation and oxidation that contribute to cataract formation. HDLs also help to remove harmful cholesterol that is linked to other eye diseases.

One compelling study, published in Medicine & Science in Sports & Exercise (the official journal of the American College of Sports Medicine), looked at more than 47,000 runners and walkers and concluded that moderate and vigorous exercise were both linked to a lower risk of cataracts. The results of the study showed that the risk of cataracts decreased linearly with increased activity level — as the amount of energy expended during exercise went up, the risk of cataracts went down (i.e., runners had less of a risk than walkers, who had less of a risk than non-walkers and non-runners).

Other Benefits of Exercise

The increase in HDLs is not the only benefit of exercise to the eyes. Regular physical exercise also improves blood flow and circulation to the eye tissues, and flushes toxins away from the eyes.

According to the American Academy of Ophthalmology, exercise can lower intraocular pressure in the eye, which is what causes glaucoma. Regular exercise may also help lower the risk of age-related macular degeneration.

And, exercise helps prevent weight gain and obesity — a risk factor for type 2 diabetes. It can also help control existing diabetes. Diabetes causes a host of eye problems, including diabetic retinopathy.

Contact Dr. Gary Foster

For more information about cataracts and eye health, please contact Colorado ophthalmologist Gary Foster by calling (970) 419-2693 today.

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