Exercise May Help Diabetics Protect Their Eyesight

UM professor Paul Loprinzi's study yields insights for at-risk patients

Paul Loprinzi

Paul Loprinzi

OXFORD, Miss. – A University of Mississippi professor’s research has determined that regular exercise may help prevent diabetics from losing their vision.

Paul Loprinzi, assistant professor of health, exercise and recreation management, evaluated the association between sedentary behavior and diabetic retinopathy, a complication of diabetes that causes damage to blood vessels in the retina and leads to vision loss.

The study looked at 282 American adults with diabetes. The patients averaged 62 years of age, and nearly one-third (29 percent) had mild or more severe diabetic retinopathy.

Using an accelerometer device to measure activity, the study found that participants were physically inactive an average of 8.7 hours of the time they were awake each day.

“For each 60-minute daily increase in physical inactivity, the risk for mild or more severe diabetic retinopathy rose by 16 percent,” Loprinzi said. “I believe the link between a sedentary lifestyle and retinopathy may be due to unfavorable levels of cardiovascular disease risk factors, which in turn may increase the risk of diabetic retinopathy.”

Engaging in daily structured exercise, such as brisk walking for 30 minutes at a time, as well as lifestyle-based activity – an example would be minimizing prolonged sedentary behavior by standing up and walking for a few minutes every hour – may have important implications for health.

“Future prospective experimental studies are needed to confirm our findings to see if, indeed, sedentary behavior is causally related to an increased risk of diabetic retinopathy,” Loprinzi said.

The study was published Aug. 4 in the journal JAMA Opthamlmology.

One eye expert wasn’t surprised by the findings, but agreed that more research is needed.

“Further studies are needed to determine the extent lifestyle plays a role in the development of diabetic eye disease,” said Mark Fromer, an ophthalmologist at Lenox Hill Hospital in New York City.

To view the Loprinzi’s article, “Association of accelerometer-assessed sedentary behavior with diabetic retinopathy in the United States,” visit http://archopht.jamanetwork.com/article.aspx?articleid=2540512.