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October 2020 (Vol. 5 Issue 7)

Two strategies to reverse eyesight loss
About the author: 
Bryan Hubbard

Two strategies to reverse eyesight loss image

Worried about failing eyesight as you get older? Scientists have discovered two easy things you can do every day that will keep your vision sharp into old age.

The first is to exercise, and scientists have discovered that it has a direct bearing on macular degeneration, one of the most common cases of eyesight loss as we age.

Regular exercise reduces the overgrowth of blood vessels in the eyes by around 45 percent, and that can be all the difference between losing your sight and not.

The good news is that low levels of exercise are enough to protect your eyes, say researchers from the University of Virginia Health System. They aren't sure why this is happening but think it's because exercise increases blood flow to the eyes.

Exercising breaks the vicious cycle. As eyesight starts to deteriorate, people tend to exercise less and this, in turn, accelerates sight loss.

Their studies have been based on tests with laboratory mice, but the researchers believe they closely replicate the benefits they would see in people who start exercising. In fact, they think they draw a more accurate picture than have surveys that have depended on the honest reporting of volunteers.

The second eyesight-saving strategy is to stare into a red light every day.

A small LED torch with a deep red beam will do the job, say researchers from University College London. Staring at it for three minutes every day can reverse eyesight that has started to deteriorate, a problem common among the over-40s.

Our vision's colour contrast can improve by 20 percent by doing the exercise for even just a few weeks, the researchers discovered when they tested the technique on a group of 24 people, aged between 24 and 72 years.

The longwave light reboots the retina's cells, which age faster than cells in any other part of the body. Over time, there can be a 70 percent reduction in the cells' capabilities which causes a significant decline in the eyes' photoreceptor functions.

The torches used for the experiments retail for around £12 ($15).

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References

(Sources: exercise study: IOVS, 2020; doi: 10.1167/iovs.61.5.52; light study: Journals of Gerontology, Series A, 2020; doi: 10.1093/Gerona/glaa155)

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