Researchers from the University of Wisconsin School of Medicine and Public Health studied the relationship between the prevalence of visual impairment and smoking, drinking alcohol and physical activity (like exercise). Their findings were recently published in Ophthalmology.
According to an article, the number of people suffering from visual impairment in the US is anticipated to reach at least 4 million by 2020, which is a 70% increase from 2000. This drastic increase is because of the growing population of older citizens and a greater prevalence of age-related disease.
The research ultimately discovered that, over the course of 20 years, visual impairment developed in 5.4% of the population and varied based on the incidence of physical activity (or lack thereof), smoking and consuming alcohol.
The study found that sedentary persons were nearly 5% more likely to develop visual impairments than those who were physically active. In addition, after adjusting for age, the study also found that people who were more active were 58% less likely than sedentary individuals to develop visual impairment.
For heavy drinkers and smokers, the potential to develop visual impairment was higher than non-drinkers and non-smokers but the study found the difference was not statistically significant.
For occasional drinkers, however, the study discovered a surprising trend. Occasional drinkers — individuals who reported an average of one serving per week — developed less visual impairment over 20 years. 11% of non-drinkers developed visual impairment while only 4.8% of occasional drinkers developed impairment.
Age is a common factor associated with visual impairment and the development of eye diseases. Lifestyle behaviors can be altered, and the study helps to illustrate how three significant and common behaviors affect vision as a person ages. While there is some correlation between certain lifestyle choices and visual health, researchers note that the data itself does not prove that these behaviors are directly responsible for increased risk.
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