IT'S HEALTHY AGING MONTH
Worsening eyesight seems like an inevitable monster we all must face as we age. Cataracts, glaucoma, and macular degeneration are all ocular diseases that start showing up in the later years of life and steal visual acuity over time. If you’re worried about these diseases for yourself, your parents, or your children, there are lifestyle changes you can make to decrease the risk of developing them.
It’s true: you are what you eat! Not only does an unhealthy diet lead to diseases of the body, it also can lead to unhealthy eyes as well. It is incredibly important to get a balanced diet full of leafy greens and brightly colored vegetables as well as lean proteins and whole grains. Let’s talk a little bit about what specific foods you should be looking for.
Dark Leafy Greens: Carotenoids
Kale, spinach, swiss chard, collard greens, mustard greens, and turnip greens all give incredible amounts of carotenoids, specifically lutein and zeaxanthin. Lutein and zeaxanthin are important because they make up the pigment of the macula (known simply as macular pigment) that protects the millions of photoreceptors in back of your eye which allow you to see. Macular pigment also helps to filter out glare caused by blue light, therefore sharpening vision.
Salmon and cold water fish: Omega 3 fatty acids
Omega 3 fatty acids are essential for improving symptoms of dry eye. The American diet is high in Omega 6 fatty acids (bad fatty acids) but lower in omega 3’s. In one study on women with dry eyes, omega 6 fatty acids and omega 3 fatty acids were found in a ratio of 15 to 1. Omega 3’s are particularly important because of their ability to reduce symptoms of dry eyes caused by meibomian gland dysfunction. They may also reduce the risk of age-related macular degeneration. Omega 3 supplements were found to be less effective than dietary intake, so consider adding salmon and other fish to your diet. If you don’t care for fish, try adding flaxseeds, walnuts, or dark leafy greens. However, your body does not process these vegetarian omega 3’s as easily as those found in fish.
Sweet peppers and Citrus fruits: Vitamin C
Vitamin C is great at reducing your risk of a few different ocular diseases and promoting the overall health of the eye. Not only does vitamin C promote healthy blood vessels, including the capillaries of the retina, it also helps the body form connective tissues, like the collagen found in the cornea, the clear front surface of the eye. This vitamin has been shown to reduce the risk of forming cataracts and losing vision from macular degeneration.
Regular exercise is not only important for maintaining a healthy body, but also healthy eyes. For individuals with glaucoma, regular exercise might help to lower the pressure in your eyes naturally. If you participate in yoga, avoid handstands and other inverted poses though, as those can raise IOP. Exercise also can decrease your risk for age-related macular degeneration. In a study of 4,000 people, people with an active lifestyle were found to be 70% less likely to develop the disease.
Stop Smoking and Limit Alcohol Intake
Smoking cigarettes and other substances increases your risk of a litany of healthy problems. Not only does your risk for developing cataracts, uveitis, dry eye, and diabetic retinopathy double, your risk of macular degeneration triples. Alcohol can be enjoyed in moderation, but becoming dependent on it may also increase your risk of developing cataracts.
Every single person, from 0-99, needs to have some sort of sun protection shielding their eyes from UV rays. Ultraviolet radiation is a major contributor to cataract development later in life. While wide brimmed hats are a popular form of sun protection, 100% UV blocking sunglasses are the most effective. Though sunglasses can definitely add a layer of fashion and style to a person's ensemble, they should never be seen solely as an optional accessory, especially if one is to be spending a lot of time outside. Children are also at an increased risk for UV exposure, as they are outside more than the average adult. Protecting your eyes from UV radiation early in life can save you from a lot of problems later.
See Your Eye Doctor Yearly
Making an appointment for a comprehensive exam every year is one of the easiest things you can do to reduce your risk of vision loss from ocular diseases, especially glaucoma. Glaucoma steals vision slowly, so you might not notice a decrease in your vision until it’s too late. With regular exams, Dr. Pulsfus will be able to see problems arising in your eyes before they reduce your vision. Many diseases are painless, so you might not realize you’re suffering from one without the tests we provide at the office. Start working now to promote healthy sight for life!