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Exercise and Occasional Drinking Tied to a Reduced Risk of Vision Impairment

Update Date: Mar 19, 2014 01:32 PM EDT

Drinking alcohol occasionally could be beneficial if you are physically active as well. According to a new study, researchers discovered that people who exercise frequently and drink alcohol at times have a reduced risk of vision impairment.

The researchers from the University of Wisconsin School of Medicine and Public Health conducted the study as a part of the Beaver Dam Eye Study. The Beaver Dam Eye Study is a long-term cohort study that started in 1988 and involved almost 5,000 participants aged 43 to 84. The latest study set out to examine the effects of smoking, drinking and exercise on vision impairment, which occurs when people lose their eyesight due to several reasons, such as eye disease, trauma, or a degenerative or congenital condition. Visual impairment cannot be fixed with contacts or glasses.

Overall, the researchers found that 5.4 percent of the sample set ended up developing vision impairment. When the researchers examined the first factor of physical activity, they found that only two percent of people who were physically active had vision impairment whereas 6.7 percent of people who were not active had the condition as well. When the team adjusted for age, they found that people who exercised frequently had a 58 percent reduced risk in comparison to people who led sedentary lifestyles.

When it came to drinking, the researchers found that 11 percent of people who did not drink had vision impairment. Only 4.8 percent of occasional drinkers had the same vision problems. After adjusting for age, the researchers discovered that occasional drinkers had a 49 percent reduced risk when compared to nondrinkers. The researchers reported that the risk of developing visual impairment rose for heavy drinkers and smokers.

"While age is usually one of the most strongly associated factors for many eye diseases that cause visual impairment, it is a factor we cannot change," said Ronald Klein, M.D., MPH, lead researcher of the study reported in the press release. "Lifestyle behaviors like smoking, drinking and physical activity, however, can be altered. So, it's promising, in terms of possible prevention, that these behaviors are associated with developing visual impairment over the long term. However, further research is needed to determine whether modifying these behaviors will in fact lead to a direct reduction in vision loss."

The study was published in the American Academy of Ophthalmology's journal, Ophthalmology.

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