- On January 19, 2017
Taking preventative measures and paying close attention to any changes in vision or eye health as you get older plays a huge role in protecting your eyesight. Certain eye problems are common as we age, but several eye disorders and diseases can lead to vision loss and blindness if not addressed properly.
Many aging adults encounter such common eye problems as presbyopia – the slow loss of ability to see close objects or small print; floaters – tiny specks that seem to float across your vision; excess tearing due to sensitivity to light, wind or temperature changes; and eyelid problems. Beyond that are more serious issues such as cataracts, glaucoma, corneal diseases and retinal disorders, among other potential problems.
Here is some expert advice to follow as you age to ensure that you keep your eyes healthy well into your golden years.
Have Your Eyes Checked
See an eye care professional—either an ophthalmologist or optometrist—regularly. Those over age 65 should have yearly dilated eye exams. During this exam, the eye care professional should put drops in your eyes that will widen (dilate) your pupils so that he or she can look at the back of each eye. This is the only way to find some common eye diseases that have no early signs or symptoms. If you wear glasses, your prescription should be checked, too.
Visit your primary care physician regularly as well to check for diseases like diabetes or high blood pressure. These diseases can cause eye problems if not controlled or treated. See an eye care professional right away if you:
- Suddenly cannot see or everything looks blurry
- See flashes of light
- Have eye pain
- Experience double vision
- Have redness or swelling of your eye or eyelid
Boost Your Diet
Diet plays a very important role in your overall health as well as the health of your eyes. A diet high in saturated fat and sugar may increase your risk of eye disease, whereas colorful fruits and vegetables may help prevent certain eye diseases.
Spinach, kale, sweet corn, peas and broccoli all are excellent sources of lutein and zeaxanthin, which are plant pigments called carotenoids that have been shown to protect the retina from oxidative changes caused by ultraviolet light. Omega-3 fatty acids also play an important role in reducing the frequency of age-related eye conditions such as cataracts and macular degeneration. Vitamin A, vital for healthy vision, is found in orange and yellow vegetables such as carrots and squash. Fruits and vegetables also provide essential vitamin C, another powerful antioxidant.
Other important diet tips for maintaining healthy vision as you age include:
- Eat whole grain cereals and breads instead of those with refined white flour and sugar, which may increase your risk of age-related eye disease.
- Include omega-3 essential fatty acids, found in fish, flaxseed oil, walnuts and canola oil, to help prevent dry eyes and possibly cataracts. Eat fish or seafood twice weekly, or take flax oil every day. Use canola oil for cooking and walnuts for snacking.
- Choose healthy proteins. Lean meats, fish, nuts, legumes and eggs are all good sources of healthy protein. Most meats and seafood are excellent sources of zinc, and eggs are a good source of lutein. Limit saturated fats, red meats and dairy products that may increase your risk of macular degeneration.
- Avoid sodium. High sodium intake may add to your risk of cataract formation. Use less salt, and look for sodium content on the labels of canned and packaged foods. Stay below 2,000 mg of sodium each day. Choose fresh and frozen foods whenever possible.
- Stay hydrated. Round out a healthy diet with low-fat dairy products such as skim or one percent milk for calcium, and healthy beverages such as 100 percent vegetable juices, fruit juices, non-caffeinated herbal teas and water. Proper hydration also may reduce irritation from dry eyes.
Take Eye and Vision Supplements
Even if you exercise regularly and eat a healthy diet with plenty of fruits and vegetables (and substitute fish for red meat a few times each week), you may be able to do even more to protect your vision by taking a daily nutritional supplement. Experts suggest high-quality eye and vision supplements should contain at least the following ingredients for optimum effect:
- Vitamin C (250 to 500 mg)
- Vitamin E (400 IU)
- Zinc (25 to 40 mg)
- Copper (2 mg)
- Vitamin B complex that also contains 400 mcg of folic acid
- Omega-3 fatty acids (2,000 mg)
Taking eye vitamins and vision supplements generally is very safe, but be sure to check with your doctor first if you are on medications or are considering taking higher daily doses than those listed above.
Make Positive Lifestyle Changes
Besides regular eye exams, healthy food choices and taking supplements, the overall best way to ward off age-related eye problems and diseases is by making positive lifestyle changes.
- Quit smoking. As if you need another reason to kick the habit, smoking increases your chance for cataracts, optic nerve damage, and macular degeneration.
- Protect your eyes from UV rays. Too much exposure to ultraviolet light makes you more likely to get cataracts and macular degeneration. Choose sunglasses that block 99-100 percent of both UVA and UVB rays. Wraparound lenses help protect your eyes from the side, and polarized lenses reduce glare when driving. Wearing a wide-brim hat when outside is also beneficial.
- Take a computer break. Staring at a computer screen for too long can cause eyestrain, blurry vision, trouble focusing at a distance, dry eyes, headaches, and neck, back and shoulder pain. Make sure your glasses or contact lens prescription is up-to-date and adequate for computer use. Ask your eye doctor about glasses to help with contrast, glare and eye strain while using a computer. The best rule of thumb is “20-20-20” – every 20 minutes, look 20 feet away for 20 seconds. And stand up and take a 15-minute break at least every two hours.
An important component of Gable Pines at Vadnais Heights, a senior living community located in Vadnais Heights, Minnesota, is our variety of wellness offerings, including personal attention from our health experts. We are here to answer your health questions and help you or your loved one set and obtain lifestyle goals. For more information regarding the services and amenities offered at Gable Pines, Contact us to speak with a member of our staff.