Exercise may inhibit macular degeneration and have benefits for diabetic retinopathy

Physical activity may reduce the severity of even inhibit the onset of macular degeneration, all while benefiting vision loss caused by diabetic retinopathy, according to new research at the University of Virginia.

Appearing in the journal Investigative Ophthalmology & Visual Science, the study is the first of its kind showcasing such experimental evidence that exercise could diminish the severity of macular degeneration, a highly prevalent condition resulting in vision loss.

The findings prove what researchers have hypothesized in the past, as to whether maintaining a healthy lifestyle could inhibit the onset of macular degeneration.

“There has long been a question about whether maintaining a healthy lifestyle can delay or prevent the development of macular degeneration. The way that question has historically been answered has been by taking surveys of people, asking them what they are eating and how much exercise they are performing,” said Bradley Gelfand, co-author of the study, in a news release.

“That is basically the most sophisticated study that has been done. The problem with that is that people are notoriously bad self-reporters … and that can lead to conclusions that may or not be true.”

For the study, researchers initiated experimentation on rodents, comparing some that voluntarily engaged in physical exercise while others that did not. A test of this comparison uncovered that exercise decreased the harmful overgrowth of blood vessels in the eyes by 45 percent. This tangle of blood vessels, researchers noted, plays a major factor in the development of macular degeneration.

“The scientists aren’t certain exactly how exercise is preventing the blood vessel overgrowth. There could be a variety of factors at play, they say, including increased blood flow to the eyes,” the co-authors explained in their news release.

“The researchers already have submitted grant proposals in hopes of obtaining funding to pursue their findings further.”

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