How can you save your vision regardless of your age? Eye disease is prevalent in seniors; however, people of all ages can take steps to protect their eyes. Here is Natural Eye Care’s guide to preserving the precious gift of sight.
At All Ages
Wear Sunglasses: The earth’s atmosphere has thinned, exposing our eyes to more ultraviolet light whenever we are outdoors. Wear 100% UVA/UVB protecting sunglasses when you are outside in the sunlight, driving, skiing, or on the water. Amber-colored lenses are the best for neutralizing blue light. Help protect your eyes from free radical damage, cataracts, and skin cancer of the eyelids.
Protect Your Eyes with Goggles: Working with metal or wood? Playing sports? On a construction site or in your garage? Swimming in a pool? Protect your eyes with goggles suited to the task.
Limit Screen Time: These days, eyes are focused on a screen much of the time. Between flat-screen televisions, computers, video games, smartphones and tablets, our eyes need a break! So much close-up focus causes headaches, eye strain, dry eye and more. Take breaks, look away into the distance, and exercise your eyes regularly. Dr. Grossman and Michael Edson, co-founders of Natural Eye Care, demonstrate eye exercises on the company’s YouTube Channel.
Screens project blue light. Too much blue light damages the retina and lens. Therefore, limiting screen time helps prevent cataracts, macular degeneration and eyestrain. Use software and monitor settings to filter out some of the blue light. Restricting blue light at night is especially important. Blue light tells the brain to wake up, causing sleep disturbances. When settling down for bed, read a book to relax. You can wear blue light blocking glasses when working on electronic devices in the evening.
Regular Eye Exams: Even if you don’t wear glasses, you should get a routine eye exam every 1 to 2 years. If you have an eye condition, go once a year or as recommended by the doctor. Most seniors should go annually or whenever they notice vision changes.
Ages 30 to 39: Exercise
Regular exercise is an important habit to establish in adult life. Schedule trips to the gym, walking, jogging, sports, cycling, swimming, surfing, and other activities. Write at least four appointments to exercise into your weekly calendar. Exercising marries well with socializing. Try paintball, tennis, golf, or leagues. If you have children, make exercise a family activity. Remember to include aerobics, stretching, flexibility exercises, and strength training.
If you started smoking and haven’t stopped, now is the time to quit. The long-term effects of smoking tobacco are well-known. Smokers are up to twice more likely to develop macular degeneration and 16 times more likely to get an optic neuropathy. The long-term effects of vaping are unknown, but vape can be a step in tapering off cigarettes. Ideally, avoid inhaling smoke of any kind.
Ages 40 – 49
You may find that letters close-up start to look fuzzy. The lens becomes thicker and less flexible in middle age. This is called Presbyopia. “Readers” are inexpensive glasses that magnify text and other close-up objects. If you already wear glasses, your optometrist or optician can add bifocals, trifocals, or progressive lenses to your next prescription. Eye exercises can help you focus more sharply and even help improve vision in a way to help manage the effects of presbyopia.
Dry eyes may develop in middle age for one of several reasons. Using a computer slows down the blink rate, making eyes drier. Women who get itchy, burning, uncomfortable, gritty feelings in the eye could be peri-menopausal or menopausal. Hormonal changes tend to dry out the eyes. If “Natural Tears” rewetting drops do not relieve symptoms, consult your eye doctor. More powerful drops are available for the tough cases.
There are natural formulas that help moisten the body internally and support natural tear production as well.
A small percentage of the population have dry eyes and dry mouth due to Sjogren’s Syndrome. This autoimmune disorder shows up starting in middle age. Your doctor can test for this disease if necessary.
Now is the time to start fending off eye disease that is so common in seniors. Your lifestyle during your remaining years will have a strong impact on your vision health.
The primary defense against eye disease is antioxidants. Antioxidants are found abundantly in vegetables, fruits, nuts, and fish oil. Reduce junky, fatty, sugary, and refined foods. Replace them with plenty of healthy foods. Many brightly colored fruits and vegetables are especially good for the eyes. Blueberries, carrots, pumpkin, and sweet corn, for example, contain carotenoids. Carotenoids are proven to protect the eyes from free radical damage.
Your ability to absorb nutrients will gradually decline. In addition to changing your diet, consider supplementing with eye-critical nutrients. Take supplements that have 10 mg of lutein, and 2 mg to 12 mg of zeaxanthin. These two powerful antioxidants have been shown scientifically to support the eyes. Also, take 6 mg to 12 mg of astaxanthin (a red nutrient from algae and certain seafood) and 2,000 mg to 3,000 mg of Vitamin C (preferably buffered and in an ascorbate form) daily. Learn more about supplements for the eyes.
If you are a heavy drinker or smoker, cut back or stop now. Your risk of getting many diseases will go back to normal over time. Ask your doctor if you need help.
Ages 60 – 69
If you have not been getting regular eye exams before your 60’s, you definitely need to start getting them now! An annual dilated eye exam will include screening for:
- Cataracts. The most common cause of blindness worldwide is cataracts. The eye’s lenses develop opaque spots. In the United States, the doctor will likely recommend cataract surgery when he or she cannot refract your vision better than 20/40 due to the cataract. With cataract surgery, an eye surgeon replaces the lens with an artificial lens. See alternatives which have the potential for helping with early to moderate stage cataracts naturally.
- Age-Related Macular Degeneration (AMD). Only the eye doctor can spot the first signs: fatty deposits in the eye called “drusen.” Macular Degeneration damages central vision, making reading, driving, and cooking difficult. Poor circulation and delivery of essential nutrients to the eyes may result in AMD and are usually a major factor in looking at natural ways to help with this and maintain healthy vision.
- Glaucoma quietly steals peripheral vision. Poor circulation and delivery of essential nutrients to the eyes may contribute to or result in glaucoma. By the time central vision loss is noticeable, damage to the optic nerve is irreversible. Early treatment can slow down the disease’s progression.
- Dry Eye Syndrome
- For Diabetics: Diabetic Retinopathy
- Other Eye Diseases
High blood pressure and heart disease are common in seniors. The doctor might be nagging you to eat right and get fit. Listen! Follow the instructions for the 50-59-year-olds above.
Did you know that atherosclerosis can damage your eyes? The eyes have tiny arteries and veins. Retinal Artery Occlusion can cause permanent vision loss. Retinal Vein Occlusion causes hemorrhaging and has the same risk factors as stroke and cardiovascular disease.
Consult your eye doctor between regular appointments whenever you have vision changes. If you have diabetes, you might chalk up vision changes to diabetic retinopathy. You may be developing a different eye disease that could be treated if caught early.
Ages 70 – 79
Aging will be much more comfortable if you keep exercising regularly and sensibly.
Ages 80 and Up
At the 80-year mark, start seeing the eye doctor 1-2 times per year.
While you might not be running marathons anymore, be sure to take a walk in fresh air every day. If the weather is bad or the ground is slippery, try mall walking or a treadmill. Include gentle strength training twice per week. Cycling on a three-wheel recumbent or upright bike reduces the chances of falling.