Macular hole, physical activity and exercise

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Health and wellness experts practice exclusively at Erickson Living communities all over the U.S. This month our expert is Sangeetha Shan-Bala, M.D. Staff Physician, Greenspring Springfield, Va.

Dr. Shan-Bala received her medical degree from Sri Ramachandra Medical College and Research Institute in India and has a fellowship in geriatric medicine from George Washington University in Washington, D.C. She completed a residency in internal medicine at Providence Hospital/George Washington University in Washington, D.C. Shan-Bala is board certified in internal medicine. She joined Greenspring in July 2008.

Send questions by email to expert@erickson.com or mail to: Ask the health expert, 703 Maiden Choice Lane, Catonsville, MD 21228.


Please note: The following questions were submitted by readers. The answers are intended for general information purposes and should not replace your doctor’s medical advice.

Q. I went for an eye exam because my vision seemed worse in my left eye. I was diagnosed with a macular hole. Is that the same as macular degeneration?

A. Although the main symptom for both conditions is similar—a loss of central vision—they are not the same medical condition. A macular hole is a small break in the area of the retina called the macula. The reason for the occurrence of most macular holes is the aging process, but they can develop because of injury or another medical condition. Most macular holes can be treated with surgery. Age-related macular degeneration (AMD) is a gradual deterioration of the macula due to protein-like compounds deposited on the retina or an overgrowth of blood vessels in the area. The underlying cause of AMD is unknown, although people who smoke or have high blood pressure are at increased risk. There is no cure for AMD, but some treatments can help slow the disease’s progression.

Q. Is there a difference between physical activity and exercise when it comes to your health? I often see the two terms used interchangeably.

A. Both can be good for your health. Physical activity is anything that gets you up and moving such as shopping, gardening, or cleaning. Exercise is a type of physical activity that has more planning, structure, and repetition associated with it. To reap the most aerobic benefits from any physical activity, your heart rate needs to go up and stay elevated for a period of time. So in most instances exercise has a slight edge over physical activity because it tends to be more sustained. Your heart rate may rise when you are gardening, for example, but there tends to be more stopping and starting associated with those types of activities. Being physically active and also including some type of formal exercise on most days of the week has numerous health benefits, including heart disease prevention and weight loss. It’s also been shown to lessen arthritis symptoms and improve your mood.

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