Next time you don’t want to go the gym or you’re feeling guilty about having wine with dinner, remember that these habits could lower your chances of developing eyesight problems later in life. According to a recent study published recently in Ophthalmology, there may be a link between the moderate physical activity and drinking habits and a decrease in vision impairment. In highlighting modifiable lifestyle changes associated with healthy eyesight, this study hopes to give individuals more control over their odds of experiencing visual impairments in the future.

As defined by American Academy of Ophthalmology, vision impairments are characterized as any sight loss that cannot be corrected with glasses or contact lenses. These include problems caused by diseases and trauma and may be acquired at birth or later on in life. The results of visual impairments can be serious, often causing individuals a decreased quality of life and in more extreme cases, significant loss of independence. It is estimated that by 2020 nearly four million Americans will be afflicted by some form of vision impairment. This is a 70 percent increase from 2000.

According to lead researcher Dr. Ronald Klein, visual impairment is something heavily associated with old age, a factor that cannot be changed. However, linking modifiable lifestyle practices, such as exercising and occasional drinking could give individuals more control over their likeliness of developing an eyesight problem. “It’s promising in terms of possible prevention, that these behaviors are associated with developing visual impairments over the long term,” Klein explained.

As part of the Beaver Dam Eye Study, 5,000 adults between the ages of 43 and 84 were observed over a period of 20 years. Details of their physical activity and alcohol intake were recorded and eyesight exams were regularly administered. Results of the study showed that those who engaged in regular physical activity were 58 percent less likely to develop an eyesight problem than those who practiced a more sedentary lifestyle. Also participants that consumed an average of one serving of alcohol each week were 49 percent less likely to develop vision impairment, as opposed to those that never drank. It was also noted that smoking and heavy drinking increased chances of acquiring eyesight problems.

Although the study shows signs of revolutionizing visual health, at the moment the results are not strong enough to hold any strong significance. Researchers argue that other factors such as unreported lifestyle differences could have also impacted odds of visual impairment. Although the study is promising, it is far from complete. “Further research is needed to determine whether modifying these behaviors will in fact lead to a direct reduction in vision loss,” Klein concluded.

Source: Klein R, et al. Physical Activity and Occasional Drinking Found to be Associated with Decrease in Vision Impairment. Ophthalmology. 2014.