by Glen Depke, Traditional Naturopath
Are you taking care of your eyes?
Most people do not think about their eyesight until there are problems.
- Perhaps this is a problem with vision such as issues reading small print or signs at a distance?
- Maybe this is a visit to your doctor complaining about floaters or blurred vision?
- Perhaps there is a family history of macular degeneration, glaucoma or cataracts?
- Maybe you are dealing with halos or blurred vision?
Regardless of what you may find to be an issue, it is much easier to prevent degeneration of your eyesight than it is to address your eyesight after you have had some challenges with your vision.
Before we address the preventive measures, we’ll take a look at some of the symptoms mentioned above for you.
Since macular degeneration is the number one cause of vision loss, let’s visit this first.
Macular Degeneration is caused by the deterioration of the central portion of the retina which is the inside back layer of the eye that records the images we see and sends them via the optic nerve from the eye to the brain. The retina’s central portion which is also known as the macula. This controls our ability to read, perform normal tasks such as driving and recognizing colors, objects, faces and other details.
A cataract is a clouding of the lens in the eye that affects vision. The cataract can develop as we age as some of the protein may clump together and start to cloud a small area of the lens. Over time, the cataract may grow larger and cloud more of the lens, making it harder to see. Most cataracts are related to aging and are very common in older people. A cataract can occur in either or both eyes but it cannot spread from one eye to the other. Cataracts can cause halos, poor night vision, cloudy vision or colors may appear faded.
Glaucoma is an eye disorder that all cause damage to the optic nerve that carries information from the eye to the brain and this typically has very few or no initial symptoms. In most cases, glaucoma is associated with higher-than-normal pressure inside the eye but it can also occur when the pressure is normal. If untreated or uncontrolled, glaucoma first causes peripheral vision loss but can eventually lead to blindness.
According to the American Academy of Ophthalmology, the most common type of glaucoma, called primary open-angle glaucoma, affects an estimated 2.2 million people in the United States, and that number is expected to increase to 3.3 million by 2020 as the U.S. population ages.
So what can you do to proactively keep your eyes healthy?
First off with glaucoma, which we just talked about above, according to a recent European study, exercise is likely a positive step for some people. Also, researchers in the U.K. found that higher levels of physical exercise appear to provide a long-term benefit of reducing the incidence of low ocular perfusion pressure which is an important risk factor for glaucoma.
The results showed that study participants who engaged in moderate physical exercise approximately 15 years prior to the study had a 25 percent reduced risk of low OPP that could lead to glaucoma.
Eat plenty of fresh, dark green leafy vegetables, especially kale. Studies have shown that a diet rich in dark leafy greens assist in supporting eye health. Those vegetables that are carotenoid-rich , especially those rich in lutein and zeaxanthin, can create an even high impact on the health of your vision.
Maintain healthy blood sugar balance. Excessive sugar in your blood can pull fluid from the lens of your eye, affecting your ability to focus and long term, this can damage the blood vessels in your retina which could also obstruct blood flow.
If you smoke, quit! Smoking increases free radical activity and puts you at risk for challenges with your eyesight. If you want healthy vision for your whole life it is simply not a good idea to risk poor eye health with cigarettes. Not to mention to host of other challenges with cigarettes.
It is also a good idea to increase your omega-3 intake via food or supplements. A study published in the August 2001 issue of Archives of Ophthalmology found that consuming omega-3 fatty acids was protective of your healthy vision.
Supplements rich in lutein and zeaxanthin have been shown to support eye health for years. This combination can be used as preventive measure as well as added to your daily regiment if you have a recognized challenge with your eyesight.
It is also beneficial to workout your eyes. I know this may sound funny but in reality there are many small muscles around the eye that simply become atrophied as we age and stimulating these muscles can have a profound affect on your eyesight. My wife use to wear corrective contacts at night to help with her vision. At this point in her life he read a book called “Take Off Your Glasses and See” and she followed the recommendations in this book. In a relatively short time span, she was free of the corrective contacts and has not needed them for over 6 years.
So don’t wait until you are having challenges with your eyesight. Use a preventive focus on significantly increase your opportunity to enjoy clear and concise eyesight late in life. I personally follow these recommendations and into my 50’s I have no need for glasses, not even for reading.
This too can be you!