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Lifestyle Practices & Declining Eye Health

Friday, September 29, 2017

Given the US allopathic medicine concentration on body part specialization and pharmaceutical treatment of symptoms, is it not surprising that we most always look at the effects of poor lifestyle choices individually, rather than as a collective whole.


The magnitude of risk reduction associated with multiple healthy or unhealthy lifestyles, considered jointly, is suggested to be greater than the magnitude associated with individual health or unhealthy lifestyle factors.

Once again proving that the whole is, or can be, far greater than the sum of its parts.

Loss of vision and low vision among older adults has been carefully researched for years, one issue at a time, as well as one therapy modality at a time, as is the American way. However, at this time in history, preventive measures through lifestyle modifications are becoming more and more attractive, because they are far more affordable than clinical therapies and do not require specialists for administration.

By better understanding, and reducing or eliminating modifiable lifestyle risk factors, it seems reasonable to suggest the possibility that less vision loss will develop, vision loss progression may be reduced, and its age at onset, delayed.  

Specifically, consuming a healthy diet, not smoking, abstaining from excessive alcohol, and regular physical activity have been previously associated with lower occurrence of most early or advanced vision loss in epidemiologic studies.

However, only one study to our knowledge has examined the association between a combination of three healthy behaviors

—healthy diet, physical activity, and not smoking—and risk of developing age-related loss of vision.  

The Carotenoids in Age-Related Eye Disease Study (CAREDS) proved that women who had a combination of these three healthy lifestyle factors had a threefold lower odds for early retina-specific vision loss relative to women who had unhealthy lifestyles.

 A more recent report from CAREDS showed that having unhealthy lifestyles and two complement factor H risk alleles increased risk for declining eye health, however unhealthy lifestyles increased the risk regardless of risk genotype.

A new Nature scientific report on ongoing Blue Mountain Eye Study data collection 

The Blue Mountain Eye Study is a population-based cohort study of common eye diseases and other health outcomes in a suburban Australian population located west of Sydney. Baseline examinations of 3,654 residents over 49 years of age were conducted between 1992 and 1994. Surviving baseline participants were invited to attend examinations after five- 10- and 15 years. 

The 15-year group data collection included 1,149 of the original baseline participants.

Health behavior assessment

An interviewer-administered questionnaire was used to collect information on a wide range of health behaviors.

Smoking was divided into two groups: current and former  or never smoker.

Alcohol intake was assessed by questioner about the frequency of consuming alcoholic drinks per day or per week, the usual number of drinks on a day when alcohol was consumed, and the usual type of alcohol (beer, wine, port, or spirits). Poor drinking behavior was defined as more than two small drinks per day.  

Physical activity was also reported and the estimated time (in hours and minutes) they spent walking or doing vigorous activity per week. Poor physical activity was defined as less than three hours per week. 

Dietary intake data were collected using a self-administered food frequency questionnaire. Foods listed were categorized into major food categories and subcategories. The cut points used for analyses of fruit and vegetable consumption were based on the overall recommended daily intake for each food group. Poor dietary behavior was defined as having fewer than four servings of fruit and vegetables per day, with each serving being the equivalent of at least one full cup. 

A health behavior score was calculated based on the four poor health behaviors: cigarette smoking, high alcohol intake, physical inactivity, and low fruit and vegetable intake.  Participants scored one point for the presence of each of the poor-health behaviors. The poor health behavior score ranged from 0 (no poor health behaviors) to four (all four poor health behaviors).

This study provided epidemiological evidence showing that the collective effect of poor health behaviors on loss of eye health in an older cohort was substantial. At baseline, the participants who engaged in all four poor health behaviors had a five- to 29.5-fold greater odds of any and late retin- related vision loss respectively, compared to those exhibiting none of these behaviors.

Data from both the Blue Mountain Eye Study and CAREDS suggest that a combination of lifestyle practices might have a far more important effect on the likelihood of vision loss, than simply focusing on certain isolated components of an individual’s lifestyle.  

The study authors hypothesized that adopting a number of poor health behaviors could contribute to increasing oxidative stress, inflammation, and worsening blood lipid levels, all of which are thought to be pathogenic mechanisms that promote age associated loss of vision.

Ellen Troyer, with Spencer Thornton, MD, David Amess and the Biosyntrx staff


Once again, Biosyntrx is grateful to natureresearch journal and their commitment to providing timely open access scientific reports.  And, as a gentle reminder, the US recommendation for daily intake of fruits and vegetables to meet health-required nutrient percent daily value (DV) is 9 to 13 one-half cup servings every day. 

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