6 Impactful Ways to Age-Proof Your Eyesight

Age proofing your eyesight is a continuous process that is best when started early in life, but can be implemented at any age for eye health benefits. The rate in which our eyes age can be reduced if we are mindful of what increases age-related eye diseases and what slows the eye-aging process. For instance, once UVA/UVB damage to the eye occurs it’s often not reversible.

The likelihood of good vision throughout the lifespan is increased by practicing these six areas of protection as early as possible; good nutrition, exercise, sun protection, avoid smoking, limit drinking, and get annual comprehensive eye exams with your local optometrist.

Dr. Tom Cruse, Colorado Optometric Association’s Board President says, “The more annual comprehensive eye exams that you can attend as you age translates to having a much higher chance of early detection and can equate to avoiding issues later in life that include low vision issues, blindness or even save your life. Live that healthy lifestyle and see your optometrist regularly for the best chance at age proofing your eyesight.”

  • Annual Comprehensive Eye Exams: It’s simple, just because you don’t have any symptoms does NOT mean you should skip your annual comprehensive eye exam. Many vision threatening eye diseases such as glaucoma, macular degeneration, cataracts, or diabetic retinopathy have no or minimal symptoms until the disease has progressed. Early detection is key to slowing progress, managing disease, and saving vision. Optometrists look at a lot more than just your visual acuity in a comprehensive exam and can even detect other health issues such as autoimmune conditions, allergies, medication complications, high blood pressure, high cholesterol, diabetes and more. Find a trusted Colorado optometrist here!
  • Good Nutrition: When choosing what to eat throughout your day make sure you’re getting the nutrients that promote healthy eyes. To support your eye health and reduce eye disease risks choose foods rich in vitamins C and E, zinc, lutein, zeaxanthin, and omega-3 fatty acids DHA and EPA. If you have already been diagnosed with an eye disease check with your optometrist to understand which foods can support your eye health and which foods can provoke your symptoms or even speed up the progression of the disease. Your eye doctor may even prescribe a nutritional supplement to support your eye health. More nutritional information. 
  • Regular Exercise: Regular exercise is helpful across the board for your general health, but it’s also essential for keeping your vision from diminishing. One study of more than 15,000 people discovered that individuals who exercised and drank occasionally had less vision loss over a 20-year period than individuals who did not exercise and did not drink.1 This finding outlines the importance of exercise. Find the exercise that works for you whether it’s walking, hiking, running, swimming, weightlifting, or the countless other ways to get movement in.
  • Consistent Sun Protection: Sun exposure can increase your risk of cataracts and if you have blue eyes and fair skin your risk of cataracts is even higher. Once sun damage of the eye occurs, the long-term impact is not reversible making sunglasses more important than most people think. The Colorado sun is bright due to the elevation and the intense sun reflecting off of snow or water. Grab a pair of 100% UVA/UVB blocking sunglasses to safeguard your eye health and wear them when outside. Pair your sunglasses with a hat for even more UV protection since sunlight can slip in through the side of your glasses. Start your kids off right by protecting their eyes early on. Bonus, tiny sunglasses are cute!
  • Continue to Avoid Smoking or Quit Smoking If You’ve Started: The truth is that smoking tobacco increases the risk of age-related macular degeneration (ARMD), cataracts, glaucoma, diabetic retinopathy and dry eye syndrome. Many of these diseases can lead to vision loss or blindness. ARMD is the leading cause of blindness and studies show that smokers have up to four times the risk of developing ARMD. If you’ve been unsuccessful at smoking cessation keep trying and get support such as using the Colorado QuitLine, a free support program for Colorado residents. Call 1-800-QUIT-NOW or Enroll today. 
  • Limit Alcohol Intake: It’s common knowledge that alcohol can impact your vision during use. The long-term effects of alcohol consumption can include increased risk of cataracts, age-related macular degeneration, and optic neuropathy. Heavy drinking can impact your body’s ability to absorb vitamins and nutrients, which are needed for proper eye health.

The Sobering Risks of Skipping That Annual Eye Exam

Many people don’t realize that in addition to keeping your eyes healthy and addressing eye health challenges, optometrists can detect over 270 serious health conditions before symptoms ever occur.

That’s because the eye is the only place in the body where a doctor can look at blood vessels and understand the health of an individual’s eyes and body. This deep look into a patient’s health is performed by optometrists in every annual comprehensive eye exam. If you’re avoiding this annual examination, then you’re missing out on a full picture of your health and an opportunity for early identification.

The 270+ health conditions that eye doctors can detect include:

  • certain cancers
  • autoimmune diseases
  • diabetes
  • hypertension
  • high cholesterol
  • hormonal imbalances
  • brain tumors
  • many more conditions

In 2014, the American Optometric Association performed a study that found optometrists had detected over 250,000 diabetes-related manifestations that led to a diabetes diagnosis in patients who were unaware of their health condition.1

“Nobody wants to have a health issue, but Colorado optometrists are equipped and can detect both eye-related and general health conditions before symptoms ever occur. That can give any patient a better outcome and management plan than if the condition went unidentified. Optometrists provide an essential opportunity for early identification that can lead to saving vision and saving lives,” says Dr. Tom Cruse, Board President for the Colorado Optometric Association.

These conditions can only be detected by your eye doctor in a comprehensive eye exam and not in vision screenings or online exams. Colorado optometrists agree that there isn’t a replacement or hack to comprehensive eye exams. The great news is that the exam only takes about 30-60 minutes to get that detailed picture of your vision and health. 

Studies show that lack of symptoms, cost of eye care, lack of insurance and/or lack of transportation as the most common barriers to treatment in patients 40 years and older. Other individuals assume that nothing can be done to improve their vision, which is a bold misconception as new technology is introduced regularly.

‘No symptoms’ is not an excuse! Colorado doctors of optometry want to be very clear that one of the best times to have an exam is before symptoms become known. This means that if any eye health or general health issue is detected it can be possible to treat and/or manage the issue before irreversible damage occurs to the body or eyes.

The American Optometric Association has noted, “58% of asymptomatic patients presenting for a routine comprehensive eye exam had either a change in ocular status or care-management plan, as compared to 77% of symptomatic routine eye exam patients.”2

Many eye diseases and health issues that an eye doctor can detect through a comprehensive eye exam are correctable or manageable with early detection. The financial impact and prominence of eye health issues can be reduced through early detection during an annual comprehensive exam. The sooner you know you have the health issue, the sooner you can address it and prevent progression of the condition.

What Can I Expect at a Comprehensive Eye Exam?

A comprehensive eye exam usually takes 30-60 minutes and is performed by an optometrist or ophthalmologist. The exam covers 12 areas of observation and testing, whereas screenings only check one area: vision acuity.  

The following do NOT count as a comprehensive eye exam:

  • Eye screenings are not comprehensive (including the eye screening at the DMV)
  • Online eye exams are not comprehensive
  • App-based vision tests are not comprehensive

Comprehensive Eye Exams Include:

Patient History
The doctor or staff will collect information on your health, family, and vision history along with current medications and symptoms. They will clarify your chief concerns.

Visual Acuity Testing
Testing for your vision with and without correction or with glasses or contact lenses.

Preliminary Tests
Testing eye pressures, screening for side vision, color vision, stereo acuity, pupil reactions, eye teaming and tracking.

Measuring the shape of the cornea.

Checking the power of the glasses needed.

Eye Focusing, Eye Teaming, and Eye Movement Testing
Looking at how the eyes work together during focusing and movement.

Eye Health Evaluation
Evaluating the health of the front of the eye and inside the eye.

Supplemental testing
Depending on the findings of your exam the doctor may order further testing. This could include, but is not limited to: digital imaging of the retina, visual field testing, OCT, meibomography, photodocumentation.  This testing is used to further clarify the diagnosis and treatment plans for such disease as: glaucoma, macular degeneration, dry eye, visual efficiency issues or the need for contact lenses.

Many of these serious health and eye health conditions can be threats to an individual’s vision, life, or quality of life when left undetected. Get a clear picture of your health by finding a trusted optometrist here.

Holiday Edition: Eating Your Way to Good Eye Health

This holiday season you can eat your way to better eye health by simply incorporating key foods to support your eyes. Good eye health starts with how you feed your body.

Colorado doctors of optometry agree that you should aim for eye health nutrition such as Omega-3 Fatty Acids, Lutein, Zeaxanthin, Zinc, Copper and Vitamins A, C, E & K.

If you’re nutritionally lacking in one area, it can create a snowball effect of health issues. Dr. Tom Cruse, Colorado Optometric Association Board President explains, “It’s not new information that we can use food and nutrition to improve our health or heal our bodies. We can use nutrition to improve our eye health by choosing optimal foods daily to support eye health. We can even incorporate these choices throughout the holiday season without skipping our holiday favorites. Remember moderation is key!”

2020 Eyes Colorado is speaking out throughout December about nutrition and eye health so that Coloradans are equipped with the information they need to keep their eyes healthy.

We’ve done the work for you and have listed the specific foods to choose if you want to improve eye health throughout the holiday season.

Reducing Inflammation with Cruciferous Vegetables

One study shows that participants who reported eating the most cruciferous vegetables (1.5 cups per day) had substantially less inflammation than those who ate the fewest. The women who consumed the most cruciferous vegetables had, on average, 13%-25% lower levels of three (3) important inflammatory markers in their blood.1 In addition to possibly lowering inflammation in the body these important veggies can do so much more as they are packed with additional eye health nutrients.

Cruciferous vegetables are a diverse group of nutrition packed veggies that are part of the mustard family. They can easily be found in most grocery stores.

Full list of cruciferous vegetables: arugula, bok choy, broccoli, broccoli rabe, broccoli romanesco, brussel sprouts, cabbage, cauliflower, chinese broccoli, chinese cabbage, collard greens, daikon, garden cress, horseradish, kale, kohlrabi, komatsuna, land cress, mizuna mustard – seeds and leaves, radish, rutabaga, tatsoi, turnips – root and greens, wasabi, watercress 

Cruciferous Vegetable Holiday Favorites and Benefits:

Bok Choy contains more vitamin A than broccoli and is high in beta-carotene.

Brussel Sprouts can help prevent dry eyes and consuming them can help your body protect your eyes from external damage including harmful UV rays. They’re full of Lutein and Zeaxanthin

Collard Greens are jam packed with eye health nutrient richness! Don’t skip these for your holiday dinner. In addition to boosting your eye health, they can boost your mood and help you sleep.

Kale We know there are strong opinions about kale, but one cup of raw kale is loaded with Lutein and Vitamin C. Kale can boost your immune system, it’s diabetes friendly, and weight-friendly with about 30 calories per raw cup! 

Harnessing the Power of Lutein and Zeaxanthin

Lutein and zeaxanthin are famous for eye health protection because they are powerful antioxidants that defend against free radicals. These two carotenoids are pigments produced by plants that often give foods a green or orange color.

Foods with high sources of Lutein and Zeaxanthin: Kale, spinach, collard greens, sweet potatoes, egg yolks, pumpkins, turnip greens, corn, broccoli, kiwi, grapes, many squash varieties.

Lutein and Zeaxanthin Holiday Favorites and Benefits:

Broccoli contains lutein and zeaxanthin that work as protective pigments in the back of the eyes. It’s also loaded with antioxidants and anti-inflammatory properties.

Egg yolks are the only non-plant source of Lutein (eat eggs in moderation and you may want to pass on them if you have high cholesterol).

Pumpkins are full of Lutein and Zeaxanthin. These two antioxidants help in preventing Age Related Macular Degeneration.

Sweet Potatoes are loaded with Lutein, beta carotene, and other vitamins and are also naturally sweet for the picky eater at your dinner table. A delightful side of mashed sweet potatoes can also reduce the risk of eye infections.

Carotenoids and Vitamin A: Allies for Eye Health

Vitamin A is so important for our eyes that deficiency in this vitamin is the most common cause of blindness globally due to malnutrition. Vitamin A is a group of antioxidant compounds that impact your vision, bone growth and health of the immune system. Vitamin A supports the surface of the eye and reduces the risk of eye infections and other infections throughout the body.3 Vitamin A is found in products like liver, fish, meat, and dairy products.

 If you’re not a fan of the foods high in vitamin A then remember beta-carotene. It’s a carotenoid that reduces oxidative stress in the body. Beta-carotene is one of the most common and effective provitamin A carotenoids. Unlike vitamin A, Beta-carotene can be sourced from fruits and vegetables.

Great sources of beta-carotene include apricots, asparagus, beets, broccoli, cantaloupe, carrots, corn, guava, kale, mangoes, mustard and collard greens, nectarines, peaches, pink grapefruit, pumpkin, squash (yellow and winter), sweet potato, tangerines, tomatoes, and watermelon.

Vitamin A/Beta-carotene Holiday Favorites and Benefits:

Acorn and Butternut Squash is a great way to fill up on a variety of vitamins to prevent age related changes. Vitamin A in this squash can nurture your cornea.

Beef Liver most people will likely skip putting beef liver on the table, but this organ meat comes in first place for packing in the Vitamin A, also known as retinol.

Carrots whether it’s a baby, rainbow or standard orange carrots you’ll get both antioxidants beta carotene and lutein.

Goat Cheese is full of healthy fats, protein and Vitamin A.

Spinach offers so much to us for eye health and is considered to be the most nutrient dense food. It includes beta-carotene, lutein, zeaxanthin,

Tuna offers the body vitamin A and omega-3 fatty acids.

Red Bell Peppers hold the most nutrition out of all the bell pepper varieties and they’re easy to work into a meal. Red bell peppers hold over 10 times more beta-carotene than green bell peppers.

Don’t Forget the Omega-3 Fatty Acids!

Omega–3 fatty acids are essential for eye health. It’s commonly known that taking an omega-3 supplement can be beneficial for individuals with dry eye disease by increasing tear fluid. DHA and EPA (two components of omega-3 fatty acids) may also prevent diabetic retinopathy and a number of other eye challenges. But you don’t have to stick to supplements to load up. Let’s talk about the foods that include this eye health powerhouse.

Omega-3 Fatty Acids Holiday Favorites and Benefits:

Mackerel is one of the highest sources of omega-3 fatty acids and is high in vitamin B-12 and selenium too!

Wild Salmon is recommended over farm-raised salmon. This popular fish is often eaten smoked, cooked, or raw (follow safe handling & consumption instructions). Salmon also contains magnesium, potassium, and B vitamins.

Shrimp is also rich in protein and potassium. It’s also a fancy addition to a holiday feast.

Trout is a great source of omega-3 fatty acids and is also packed with protein, potassium and vitamin D. This fish is often smoked for breakfast, appetizers, soups or that special holiday dinner.

Seaweed & Algae are great sources of omega-3 fatty acids for individuals on a vegetarian or vegan diet. Nori is used for wrapping sushi, seaweed is often a crisp snack option, and chlorella and spirulina are showing up in deserts paired with mint or berry flavors.

Chia Seeds are another plant-based option that contain ALA omega-3 fatty acids. Chia pudding is a popular 2020 desert that can also improve your eye health.

Hemp Seeds are great for your eye health, heart, digestion and skin. These rich seeds also hold protein, magnesium, iron, and zinc and can be added to that holiday salad.

Walnuts are packed with  ALA omega-fatty acids and are a versatile ingredient for appetizers, salads, side dishes, main courses, and deserts.

1 https://jandonline.org/article/S2212-2672(13)01891-1/abstract

2  https://www.healthline.com/nutrition/lutein-and-zeaxanthin

3 https://www.healthline.com/nutrition/foods-high-in-vitamin-a

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