Are you squinting while trying to read labels at the store? Do you strain your neck and eyes to see what’s on the screen?
When we think of anti-aging, a lot of us think of covering grays and getting fillers for wrinkles, but what about other age-related concerns, like protecting our diminishing eyesight?
Truth is, after we hit our 40s, our eyes change. For instance, the lens loses its flexibility, and it’s harder to see things up close, making tasks like reading more difficult.
Lucky for us, technology seems to be keeping up for this problem – the FDA just approved an eye implant that helps qualified patients who aren’t near-sighted get about 20/40 or better vision at close range.
Still, aging, along with diet and lifestyle, affects our risk for developing conditions like cataracts, a clouding of the lens that affects vision, and Age-Related Macular Degeneration (ARMD), damage to the macula, a part of the retina needed for sharp, central vision – very common and a leading cause of vision loss among people 50 and older.
Though you can’t stop aging or change your genetics, you can make a few diet and lifestyle changes now to protect your eyesight for the future:
Don’t continue to strain your eyes to read – get a pair of readers instead. They can be had fairly inexpensively, so you can keep a pair wherever you need. They come in a wide variety of styles and colors, too, for the fashion-forward. Without them, you’ll be squinting and eventually need more Botox for the wrinkles you’ve created!
If you need prescription readers, check out the site Eye Buy Direct for prescription glasses at a great value. Sign up for the email list and get an additional 15% off and free shipping.
Take a Break from the Computer
In this digital age, it’s easy to find yourself staring at your computer (or tablet, e-reader, and phone) for hours on end. This strains your eyes, causing symptoms like dryness, irritation, blurred vision, fatigue, and headaches. Take a break from the tech and give your eyes a rest! Every 20 minutes, look away and blink your eyes 10 times slowly to rewet them.
Stare at a screen all day long? Check out Phonetic Computer Eyewear for glasses that help combat Digital Eye Strain. Their frames are fitted with yellow-tinted lenses that filter out the short wavelength blue light (emitted by computers and phones) that interferes with melatonin levels (helps us to nod off) and leads to poor sleep. Wear them between dusk and bedtime when your body begins to ramp up production of melatonin.
Use Protective Wear
Over time, UV exposure to the eyes can promote the development of cataracts by triggering harmful oxidative reactions in the lens via glycation. They can also promote cancer on the delicate skin on your eyelids.
Sunglasses can protect your eyes from the sun’s harmful rays. Glasses that are simply dark can do more harm by dilating pupils and letting more UV rays in. Make sure to wear a quality pair that block 99-100% of both UVA and UVB rays any time you’re outdoors. And double up by wearing a wide-brimmed hat to keep the sun out of your face.
Watch Your Medications
A number of medications, including corticosteroids and those prescribed to treat depression, seizures, Parkinson’s disease, and asthma, can, in some cases, trigger eye conditions like glaucoma. Be aware of any possible side-effects when you take medications, and alert your doctor or ophthalmologist immediately if you experience eye pain, redness, or changes in your vision.
You might not know it, but smoking is terribly damaging to your eyes, too! In fact, smokers are up to four times more likely than non-smokers to develop ARMD. In addition, smoking builds plaque in the arteries and can promote high blood pressure, both of which can damage the retina and cause vision loss.
This is one of the most controllable ways to preserve your vision, and after you quit, eye disease risk goes down to a level close to that of non-smokers.
Moisturize Those Eyes
Dry eyes are a common complaint as we get older. Hydrate by drinking plenty of water (8-10 cups/day), and moisten eyes with drops or artificial tears when they feel dry.
Dry eye syndrome has also been linked to omega-3 deficiency, so try eating more foods rich in this nutrient or take a high-quality omega-3 supplement like VitaMedica’s Super EPA/DHA Fish Oil to help ease the symptoms of this condition.
The highest concentration of docosahexaenoic acid (DHA), one component of omega-3 fatty acids, is found in the retina, and both it and eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA) are needed for the integrity of the retinal cells and have been shown to promote retinal development and repair in prior studies.
Eat Dark Green & Yellow Vegetables
Lutein is a type of carotenoid found in dark green and yellow vegetables like kale, spinach, chard, and dandelion greens. It gets deposited in the eye, in the retina and lens, and acts as a natural antioxidant that helps protect the lens from high-energy blue and ultraviolet light.
Getting lots of lutein can help reduce the risk of eye disease, including cataracts and ARMD.
Get Your AREDS Nutrients
Nutrition plays such an important role in eye health that the National Eye Institute, part of the National Institutes of Health, conducted a study called the Age-related Eye Disease Study (AREDS), formulating a supplement to reduce the risk of developing ARMD.
The supplement includes:
– 500 mg of vitamin C
– 400 IUs of vitamin E
– 10 mg lutein and 2 mg zeaxanthin
– 1,000 mg of omega-3 fatty acids (350 mg DHA and 650 mg EPA)
– 25 mg zinc
Those who received the supplements were 26% less likely to develop advanced ARMD compared to those who didn’t. But because the high levels of vitamins and minerals in the AREDS formulation are difficult to get from diet alone or even from a multivitamin, you’ll need to supplement separately.
With all this science, it’s not hard to “see” that protecting your vision needs to be an anti-aging priority. Start taking steps today to see better, no matter what your age!
David H. Rahm, M.D. is the founder and medical director of The Wellness Center, a medical clinic located in Long Beach, CA. Dr. Rahm is also president and medical director of VitaMedica. Dr. Rahm is one of a select group of conventional medical doctors who have education and expertise in functional medicine and nutritional science. Over the past 20 years, Dr. Rahm has published articles in the plastic surgery literature and educated physicians about the importance of good peri-operative nutrition.