Aging and lifestyle affecting the eye

Aging and lifestyle affecting the eye


Aging and lifestyle affect the eye and can be risk factors for ocular diseases or confounders for their diagnosis. Many lifestyle-related parameters, such as obesity, high blood pressure, unfavorable cholesterol values, the lack of physical activity, or the consumption of alcohol or tobacco, may impair retinal structure. While lifestyle-related retinal changes are often too small to be noticed by people, they may impose risk factors for severe ocular diseases, including potentially blinding optic neuropathies.

As reported, exfoliation syndrome (XFS), a degenerative age-related condition that can develop into glaucoma, was increasing with age and more frequent in women and asthma patients. And people with frequent dietary fiber-rich vegetables and fruit consumption were less likely to have XFS. Aging and many factors have been approved to increase the onset and progress risk of diabetic retinopathy, such as long duration of diabetes, hyperglycemia, hypertension, hyperlipidemia, smoking, moderate alcohol consumption, obesity, and pregnancy, etc. Similarly, identified risk factors for retinal artery occlusion include hyperglycemia, hypertension, hyperlipidemia, smoking, and advanced age.[4]

Previous studies infer that it’s necessary to deeply and comprehensively investigate the effects of aging and lifestyle on eyes, which requires a large population-based systemic clinical cohort study. It will be much beneficial to both patients and healthcare providers to find crucial factors that lead to the development and progression of certain ocular diseases like glaucoma, age-related macular degeneration, and diabetic retinopathy, especially during the early stage. Thus, healthcare providers will be able to work out a plan to better control the diseases before the onset and retard the progression.

What We Do

Our team is curious about how aging and lifestyle factors affect the eye. We are participating in a population-based study (with about 10 thousand participants) that includes ocular imaging and a large number of physiological and cognitive parameters to systematically investigate the relationship between retinal parameters obtained via fundus photography and optical coherence tomography (OCT) and age, as well as various groups of lifestyle-related variables, such as cardiovascular parameters (e.g., blood pressure, cholesterol, history of strokes), anthropometric parameters (e.g., body mass index, waist-to-hip ratio), substances (e.g., alcohol and tobacco consumption), or neurological diseases (e.g., Parkinson’s disease, neuro-cognitive disorders, multiple sclerosis). This project contributes directly and immediately to public health by exploring the relationship between ocular diseases, demographic characteristics, and lifestyle-related parameters.

Selected Publications

  • Rauscher, F.G., Wang, M., Francke, M., Wirkner, K., Tönjes, A., Engel, C., Thiery, J., Stenvinkel, P., Stumvoll, M., Loeffler, M. and Elze, T., 2021. Renal function and lipid metabolism are major predictors of circumpapillary retinal nerve fiber layer thickness—the LIFE-Adult Study. BMC medicine19(1), pp.1-12.
  • Girbardt, J., Luck, T., Kynast, J., Rodriguez, F.S., Wicklein, B., Wirkner, K., Engel, C., Girbardt, C., Wang, M., Polyakova, M. and Witte, A.V., 2021. Reading cognition from the eyes: association of retinal nerve fibre layer thickness with cognitive performance in a population-based study. Brain Communications3(4), p.fcab258.
  • Li, D., Rauscher, F.G., Choi, E.Y., Wang, M., Baniasadi, N., Wirkner, K., Kirsten, T., Thiery, J., Engel, C., Loeffler, M. and Elze, T., 2020. Sex-specific differences in circumpapillary retinal nerve fiber layer thickness. Ophthalmology127(3), pp.357-368.