Wellbeing, nutrition and lifestyle
Maintaining a healthy lifestyle – including the right nutrition from a balanced diet and regular exercise – is proven to improve your overall wellbeing. But it’s also important to support your eye health if you’re living with or at risk of macular disease.
Aim to incorporate exercise into your daily routine.
As we get older, physical fitness is essential for everyday tasks, such as getting in and out of chairs, carrying the shopping or lifting grandchildren.
However, if you have low vision or you feel unsteady on your feet, you may – over time – do less walking and less physical activity. That means muscles can get weaker and joints can stiffen.
Regular exercise at all ages improves balance, strength, mobility and reaction time.
It can also reduce the risk of injury from a fall.
Regular exercise helps insulin to work better, which will reduce your risk of diabetes and diabetic eye disease. It can also help to lower your blood pressure, reduce weight and reduce stress. Being physically active also helps manage other chronic conditions such as arthritis, depression and high blood pressure.
Please consult your doctor before you embark on an exercise program.
What sorts of exercises are suitable?
This will depend on your age, other health conditions and your doctor’s advice. But there are many activities to help keep you fit and healthy. You might want to consider
- aqua aerobics
- tai chi
- yoga / pilates
- home / group exercises
- team sports
- lawn bowls
Even just getting out of the house for a game of cards, or bingo or a local community event will help keep you active. There are various joint-friendly team sports for seniors, such as walking netball, or people with low vision such as blind golf, bowls and cricket.
You may wish to consider mobility training if you need help to get around your home or neighbourhood.
Check out your local council for information on local activities, or local seniors groups about what activities they offer.
Eating a healthy, well balanced diet high in antioxidants, vitamins and other nutrients can help keep your eyes healthy.
Healthy eating for the macula includes:
- fish two to three times a week
- dark green leafy vegetables and fresh fruit daily
- a handful of nuts a week
Choose low glycemic index (GI) carbohydrates and limit the intake of fats. High fibre, low GI carbohydrates and limited saturated fats are also good for people living with diabetes, and trying to prevent or slow the progression of diabetic retinopathy.
Important antioxidants for eye health include lutein and zeaxanthin.
These are present in high concentrations in a healthy macula and help to protect your eyes. They are found in dark green leafy vegetables such as spinach, kale and silverbeet, and to a lesser extent in other vegetables such as corn, yellow capsicum, peas, pumpkin and Brussels sprouts.
In addition, vitamin C, vitamin E, zinc and selenium are important antioxidants for a healthy macula.
Our publication ‘Nutrition for age-related macular degeneration’ contains some useful information about an eye healthy diet. Please consult your doctor before changing your diet.
Blood glucose levels
If you’re living with diabetes, controlling your blood glucose levels will significantly reduce your long-term risk of vision loss. You can find out more about reducing your risk of diabetic eye disease in our free fact sheet.
Smoking is a risk factor for many diseases, including macular disease.
People who smoke are at a greater risk of developing AMD and diabetic eye disease.
In fact, studies have shown that if you smoke, you increase the risk of developing age-related macular degeneration by a factor of three. Smokers also develop AMD around 10 years earlier than non smokers.
They’re also at increased risk of vision loss.
Smoking increases blood pressure and blood glucose levels, making it harder to control diabetes.
It can also interfere with some medications used to treat macular conditions.
It’s hard to stop, but with help and support, you can quit smoking. You’ll find more information on the Quit website.
The link between macular diseases and sunlight exposure is not strong but protecting the eyes from UV light is recommended.
This also makes going outside more comfortable for people with macular conditions who are more sensitive to glare. You can protect your eyes by wearing a hat, sunglasses or lenses that automatically darken when you’re outdoors.