Exercise Shown to Reduce Glaucoma Risk

NOVEMBER 13, 2017
Kevin Kunzmann
Exercise may be one of the simplest and effective ways to prevent one of the leading causes of blindness in the US.

According to a study presented at the 121st Annual Meeting of the American Academy of Ophthalmology (AAO 2017) in New Orleans, LA, patients that engage in moderate-to-vigorous physical activity reduce their risk of developing glaucoma by as much as 73%.

The study, conducted by researchers from the University of California, Los Angeles, examined the correlation between patient exercise intensity and glaucoma diagnosis via the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey.

For over 50 years, the large-scale survey has tracked health and nutritional status in US adults. It defines rates of activity in terms of walking speed and number of steps walked per minute, as measured by a pedometer. According to researchers, 30 minutes of moderate-to-vigorous physical activity equates to 7,000 steps walked per day, at least 5 days per week.

For every 10-unit increase in both walking speed and number of steps taken per minute, researchers found a glaucoma risk decreased by 6% in a patient. A 10-miunte increase in weekly moderate-to-vigorous activity resulted in a glaucoma risk decrease of 25%.

Glaucoma, a major cause of vision loss in US patients, is commonly diagnosed in people aged 40 years or older. There is no known cure for the condition, and the most viable treatment options are designed to slow its progression.

This most recent study backs previous research that showed factors of lifestyle are influential to patient eye pressure — a major risk factor for conditions such as glaucoma. Victoria L. Tseng, MD, PhD, a member of the research team, added that previous studies have correlation between exercise, blood flow and, indirectly, glaucoma risk.

“Our research suggests that it is not only the act of exercising that may be associated with decreased glaucoma risk, but that people who exercise with higher speed and more steps of walking or running may even further decrease their glaucoma risk compared to people who exercise at lower speeds with less steps,” Tseng said.

The initial analysis study gives credence to patients being able to bolster their method of eye pressure management, which is prominently treated with eye drop therapies by ophthalmologists.

But Tseng advised that more research directly examining exercise’s relationship to glaucoma is necessary before physicians can make any recommendations for patients. Though, patients can consider exercise to be a beneficial activity for their overall health, Tseng said.

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