Protect Your Eyes

While aging is a fact of life we cannot escape, there are certain measures that can be taken to ensure the best possible vision as you age. The following lifestyle modifications can help delay or prevent certain eye diseases.

Regular Eye Examinations
One of the most important things you can do is schedule yearly eye examinations. During a dilated eye exam, your eye doctor carefully checks for eye diseases such as macular degeneration, glaucoma, and diabetic retinopathy. Early detection and treatment of these diseases may help prevent vision loss. Also during an eye exam manifestations of systemic diseases such as high blood pressure and some types of cancer can be detected.

Healthy Diet
Eating a healthy diet may help prevent certain eye diseases. Choose dark green and brightly colored fruits and vegetables to obtain the most antioxidants. Omega-3 fatty acids may also help protect your eyes against diseases such as dryness and macular degeneration. Omega-3s can be found in cold water fish such as salmon, tuna, sardines and mackerel. A good quality fish oil supplement or a vegetarian supplement containing black currant seed oil or flaxseed oil may be a helpful addition to your diet.

Quit Smoking
Smoking can promote eye disease by damaging blood vessels and reducing the blood flow to the eyes as well as increasing the amount of toxins your eyes absorb. This elevates the risk for diabetic and hypertensive retinopathy, as well as macular degeneration.  Tobacco smoke also increases aging changes to the skin around your eyes and contributes to the symptoms of Dry Eye Disease. If you smoke, ask your doctor about a program to help you quit. Refraining from tobacco products is one of the most important modifiable ways to decrease your risk of developing a multitude of diseases.

UV Protection
You can also help protect your eyes by avoiding prolonged exposure to ultraviolet (UV) rays and high-energy blue light. Wear good quality UV-blocking sunglasses while outdoors. Wearing a wide-brimmed hat can add extra protection. There are also new lens coatings available that reduce the amount of high-energy blue light emitted from electronic devices. Studies have not yet conclusively shown harm from this blue light, but the low cost of the lens coatings could be a prudent investment.

Exercise and Weight Control
These are the other major modifiable lifestyle choices that can decrease your risk of developing disease.  Maintaining a healthy diet and limiting caloric intake help decrease the risk of diabetes, heart disease, cancer, and many other diseases. Regular exercise in addition helps to control weight and by itself can decrease the chance of high blood pressure, heart and lung disease as well as others. Being in general good health also helps decrease many eye diseases. 

Being proactive and modifying risk factors and behaviors that we have control over can help maintain our health and vision into our golden years and help keep those years more enjoyable.

Bio: Ophthalmologist David M. Loewy, MD specializes in laser and cataract surgery and practices at Eye Specialists of Mid-Florida.

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