Mature women, pay attention! You knew that having stronger bones could help prevent osteoporosis, as well as painful fractures caused by falls. But did you know that denser bones could also mean less risk for eyesight problems? Well, a new study has proved just that.
This recent study used data from a large, long-term project called the “Study of Osteoporotic Fractures.” The researchers analyzed the data on 1,042 randomly chosen older women. They examined the women’s bone mineral density and “age-related maculopathy” status. The researchers accounted for other potential influences on eye health using a questionnaire health and lifestyle factors.
Age-related maculopathy, also known as age-related macular degeneration, is a disease that damages the part of the eye called the “macula.” This is the middle part of the “retina,” a layer of cells at the back of the eyeball. The retina sends the light collected by your eye to your brain. The macula is essential to your central vision and the clarity of your vision. So if something goes wrong with it, you’ll have problems seeing things straight ahead of you and will have difficulty with details. You’ll experience difficulty telling faces apart, reading, or driving. Things will seem blurry or darker.
Age-related maculopathy usually lets you keep your peripheral vision, so in later stages you’re not considered blind. However, since your central vision is severely compromised, you will not be able to lead the life that you do now, and will most likely require assistance. This disease is the top cause of vision loss in Americans over 60 years old.
Now, back to the study. The researchers found that 50% of the women in the study had developed age-related maculopathy. All but four percent were in the early stages of the disease. After accounting for other factors, they found that the women with the highest bone mineral density had the lowest risk for age-related maculopathy. Specifically, they were 37% less likely to have the eye disease than the women with the lowest bone mineral density were.
So, how are you bones and eyes connected? Well, it’s a bit of a puzzle that scientists haven’t quite put together yet. But they definitely have some ideas. One theory is that the female hormone estrogen could be the linking factor. It’s been found that women with more exposure to estrogen during their lives have greater bone mineral density. So the researchers are hypothesizing that longer exposure to this hormone could also help prevent age-related maculopathy. This means that hormone therapy could have one more benefit. However, there are other factors that could lead to benefits for both your bones and eyes. These include supplementing with calcium and vitamin D, eating more fruits and vegetables, exercising, and taking prescription bone-strengthening drugs. If you’re a woman who is concerned about her bone and eye health — as all of us should be — talk to your doctor about the ! best strategy for your particular case.