Macular degeneration is the deterioration of vision resulting from damage to the retina. It is a major vision issue for adults over the age of 50 and it is one of the leading causes of blindness for people of this age. It results in a loss vision in the center of the field of vision. Macular degeneration makes it difficult to read or recognize everyday objects. But even though it is a widespread issue, it seems that a way to slow the progression of retinal degeneration has been found.
Three Blind Mice
Machelle Pardue, PhD, Eric Lawson and Jeffrey H. Boatright, PhD all work together at the Atlanta, VA Center for Visual and Neurocognitive Rehabilitation and Emory University. These three experts have studied macular degeneration and have found that exercise can help slow the progression of retinal degeneration.
The researchers studied mice for two weeks before and after exposing the mice to a bright light that causes retinal degeneration. As part of the study, the researchers ran the mice on the treadmill for the two weeks before and after their exposure to the light. What they found is very interesting: the exercise the mice received from being on the treadmill helped preserve their photoreceptors and retinal cell function.
Exercise Strengthens Vision
To perform the study, the scientist first trained the mice to run on a treadmill. They had the mice run on the treadmill for one hour per day, five days a week, two weeks in a row. Then they exposed them to the light. After the mice were exposed to the bright light, they were then put back on the one hour per day, five days a week, two weeks in a row treadmill exercise regime.
The mice who exercised were compared to a group of mice who were also exposed to the bright light, but were not given the exercise. They stood on a stationary treadmill for the same amount of time the other group exercised. The group that exercised lost about half the number of photoreceptor cells compared to the non-exercising group.
The research also found a link in the brain-derived neurotrophic factor (BDNF) to the health of retinal cells. The study showed that the exercised mice had retinal cells which were more responsive to light and they had more BDNF levels in their system. BDNF is a growth and health promoting protein. In studies which were completed before this study, researchers have found that BDNF is linked to the benefits of exercise.
Scientists in this study tried blocking the receptors for BDNF in the exercising mice. When they did this, they found that the retinal function was just as bad in the exercising mice as it was in the non-exercising mice. So without the BDNF, the benefits of exercise on eyesight were practically eliminated.
The information about the study was published in the February 12th edition of The Journal of Neuroscience. The study points to the fact that it seems that exercise is important not only for overall health, but it also affects ones vision. The use of exercise may help many people slow the progression of retinal degenerative diseases.
Machalle Pardue said, “This is the first report of simple exercise having a direct effect on retinal health and vision. This research may one day lead to tailored exercise regimens or combination therapies in treatment of blinding diseases.”
As a result of this study and as more information is discovered, the treatment for macular degeneration could quickly change. Michelle Ploughman, PhD, believes the study could really help people with macular degeneration. Dr. Ploughman stated, “People who are at risk of macular degeneration or have early signs of the disease may be able to slow down the progression of visual impairment.” She also added, “These findings further our current understanding of the neuroprotective effects of aerobic exercise and the role of BDNF.”
Dr. Ploughman did not take part in the study, but has reviewed the results as part of her position at Memorial University of Newfoundland where she studies the effects of exercise on the healthy and diseased brain.
With the information that doctors are gaining every day through this study and similar studies, they are finding more and more connections between exercise and overall health. While most people think aerobic exercise is only necessary for circulatory and pulmonary health, it could be just as vital to the health of our vision. Even eye doctors may someday in the near future be designing exercise programs and therapies for their patients to slow the damage of eye diseases like macular degeneration.
If you have symptoms of macular degeneration, you should seek a proper diagnosis by an eye doctor. If you have macular degeneration, there are a few steps you can take to help you slow the progression today.
If you are a smoker, stop smoking, and the sooner the better. It is not only bad for your eyesight, it is bad for your overall health, but we all know that, right?
You should also eat healthier. Increase the amount of vitamin C, Beta Carotene, Vitamin E, Copper and Zinc. These are all necessary nutrients for treating macular degeneration. If you think getting the proper vitamins and minerals is too difficult through diet alone, consider adding a dietary supplement designed specifically for eyes, such as our Ocu-Plus Formula.
You should also add eye exercises to your daily routine. There are some great ones that can help with macular degeneration. And finally, if you aren’t exercising, check with your doctor about adding some aerobic activity to your daily routine.