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Tips to Protect Your Vision as You Age

The World Sight Day held every second Thursday of October each year was created to raise global awareness on blindness, visual impairment as well as rehabilitation of the visually impaired. Falling on 11th October this year, the World Sight Day marked another year of eye-care professional groups and NGOs coming together with efforts to prevent avoidable blindness, in line with the theme Vision 2020: The Right to Sight by WHO and International Agency for the Prevention of Blindness’s (IAPB).

Eye diseases due to age are often the cause of blindness and vision impairment. Symptoms of vision problems in ageing adults include blurred vision especially when driving at night, double vision, inability to see less vibrant colours and mild or severe distortion of vision. Itching and burning eyes are also common, as well as vision loss associated with common eye problems such as cataract, glaucoma, age-related macular degeneration (AMD) and retinal artery.

Impaired sight does not have to come with ageing. Just like your ability to walk, drive, read and think, eye health can be maintained as long as care is given to the eyes, the “window to the soul”. In conjunction with the World Sight Day are tips to protect your vision regardless if you are young or old:

1. Feed your eyes

Take plenty of Vitamin C and E which are antioxidants that protect the eyes. Various studies, some of which were the Longitudinal Study of Cataract, Roche European American Cataract Trial and a study conducted by Nutrition and Vision Project, have found that vitamins C and E lowered the risks of developing cataracts. As such, increase your intake of dark leafy greens such as spinach and leafy cabbage which are rich in the vitamins.

Carotenoids protect the eye tissues by absorbing damaging blue light. Snack on carrots and tomatoes for your daily dose of carotenoids.

Omega-3 fatty acids play a vital role in a diet for healthy eyes as it protects the retinas by counter reacting with both fat- and water-soluble free radicals. The fatty acids are found in salmon, mackerel and sardines but if consuming the oily fish daily isn’t possible, you can take fish oil for your required dosage of minerals.

2. Exercise for your eyes

When health advocates promote exercise, its benefits to the eyes are seldom mentioned; you wouldn’t have thought that the eyes stand to reap the advantages of regular exercise. Exercising at least three times per week can assist in reducing the pressure in your eyes as well as help to lower the risk of glaucoma.

Active individuals also decrease their chances of developing cataracts, age-related macular degeneration (AMD) and retinal artery occlusions, a common vascular disorder of the retina where a small artery that carries blood to the retina is blocked, often causing the loss of vision in diabetics. Studies show that more than 70% of individuals aged 43 – 86 who cycle, jog and dance three times per week are less likely to develop AMD than individuals who lead sedentary lifestyles.

3. Put on your shades

Ultraviolet (UV) light can damage your eyes by escalating the risk of cataracts, AMD and even eyelid cancer. Wearing a good pair of sunglasses can help to decrease the absorption of UV lights and reduce the risk to your eyes.

When selecting a pair of sunglasses, choose a pair that comes with “UV protection”. Don’t forgo this in favour of another pair that might look trendier or costs less. Ask the optician or sales personnel to recommend a pair that blocks out 99 – 100% of UVA and UVB rays.

When driving, use polarized lenses as these lenses reduce glare and squinting. As such, you might want to make sure that the sunglasses you buy are polarized too.

Even when it is not hot and cloudy, put on your shades when you step outdoors as UV rays are present in every weather condition. This is the same reason why skin specialists advise you to apply sunblock cream even if you do not venture out directly under the sun.

Sunnies are best accompanied by a hat. By donning a hat on sunny days, you will be protected from the harmful UV rays and radiation that ‘sneak’ in from the sides of your sunglasses.

4. Relax your eyes

With the eyes constantly trained on the PC, tablet or smartphone each day, give your eyes a break every 20 minutes. If you are watching television or completing a Sudoku puzzle, take five too to prevent your eyes from getting strained. Straining your eyes for long will lead to pain in the eyes, headaches and blurry vision.

5. Smoking could lead to blindness

Smoking has been associated with a myriad of illnesses, sight-related ailments included. Smoking increases the risk of AMD, cataracts, dry eyes and glaucoma. Diabetics who smoke pose even higher risk of going blind, even more so if they are in their later years as tissue repair and regeneration slows down. So even if you are in your 80s, it is not too late to quit smoking.

6. Anti-oxidize yourself

An antioxidant-rich diet is vital for the health of your eyes. Antioxidants serve to keep cataract, AMD and old-age blindness at bay by minimizing the damage caused by free radicals through its lutein and zeaxanthin, two of its most important components. Egg yolks and green leafy vegetables are the richest in antioxidants or alternatively, go for one of the food below:

Berries such as blueberries and blackberries are rich in anthocyanins which improves the blood flow to your eyes’ and strengthen the blood vessel walls. By doing so, diabetic retinopathy is prevented.

Brazil nuts are one of the richest sources of antioxidants so much that one Brazil nut supplies more than the daily quantity of selenium you need.

Oily fish such as salmon, sardines and mackerel oozes antioxidants and fatty acids, both of which are beneficial to the eyes.

Broccoli is another source of antioxidants as well as sulforaphane, another component that has cancer-preventing properties.

7. Stay trim and live healthy

Excess weight leads to obesity and diabetes, both conditions that make it easy for one to develop related cataract, glaucoma, AMD and diabetic retinopathy. Two words for achieving an ideal weight: exercise and diet. The next thing to do is to live a healthy lifestyle, which is one of enough sleep, low levels of stress and less indulgence of tobacco and alcohol.

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